Health

India’s vaccine export suspension: NMA president wants govt to look for alternative

As of March 29, 2021, Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has been confirmed in almost every country globally. There had been almost 128 million cases and 2.8 million deaths. Even the third wave of the infections which many European countries are grappling with presently, may also be imminent in Africa. However, with India’s recent vaccine export suspension, experts advocate seeking immunisation products elsewhere to avert any threat to Nigeria’s vaccine rollout, writes APPOLONIA ADEYEMI

The rollout of COVID-19 vaccination across many states of the federation has been smooth except for hiccups with online registration for the process and the incidences of large gatherings in many vaccination centres, which have sparked fear of the third wave of coronavirus infections. As some state governments however rose to the occasions, addressing the anomalies, what may be a blow to the entire process occurred last week: India suspended the export of COVID-19 vaccines to focus on domestic immunisation. Although, the move is temporary, the development could threaten to disrupt the distribution of vaccine doses to the developing world including Nigeria.

As of March 29, 2021, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) had been confirmed in almost every country and territory around the world. There had been almost 128 million cases and 2.8 million deaths, according to data from ‘Statista’. Although, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) daily report of new cases is reducing, fear of the third wave infections has gripped the populace, Europe is currently facing a deadly third wave of coronavirus as infections and fatalities in the United Kingdom (UK) continue to fall.

It will be recalled that India’a biggest vaccine maker, the Serum Institute of India (SII), has been supplying millions of doses of AstraZeneca PLC’s vaccine to countries around the world, as well as Covax, the United Nations-backed effort to provide vaccines to poor countries. COVAX shipped 3.94 million doses of the AstraZeneca/ Oxford vaccine, manufactured by the (SII) from Mumbai to Abuja on March 2.

The delivery was made possible through a partnership between The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF and World Health Organisation (WHO). Going by the AstraZeneca/ Oxford vaccine plan, which requires two doses to provide adequate protection against coronavirus, the Federal Government is expected to receive another batch of the vaccine in May to ensure a complete dose for citizens that get the first jab.

The news of the vaccine export suspension has however been worrisome, especially when viewed against the background of global vaccine access which remains largely limited. Poor countries and developing nations do not have enough vaccines due to short supply. Gavi, which is involved in the Covax , said the SII was contracted to supply doses to over 60 lowerincome countries, but vaccine deliveries to participating nations “will face delays during March and April as the Government of India battles a new wave of COVID- 19 infections,” Gavi said last week .

Reacting to the development, the President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Professor Innocent Ujah said India’s action if not reverted immediately would obviously affect the number of Nigerians to be vaccinated. Ujah who lamented that Nige-ria failed to put in place facilities that could produce vaccines incountry, said, “It is a big challenge not having facilities to produce vaccines and this is also a problem where you don’t have and you have to depend on other countries.

“Even, the people you have vaccinated before, if you don’t have more, how will you give them the second dose of the vaccine? It is a big challenge,” he admitted. To ensure that vaccination in Nigeria would not be suspended, Ujah suggested that Nigeria should look elsewhere for vaccines.

He said, “We will have to start looking elsewhere if India has put an embargo. “We have to look at other manufacturers like Pfizer and ensure that they will supply to Nigeria.” Ujah who expressed hope that Indian suspension would soon be lifted urged the Federal Government to ensure that Nigerians were vaccinated against COVID- 19. “I expect that Indian suspension is a temporary one because apart from the fact that they are producing it they are also making gain. So, they will have to open it up so that other countries can buy.” While urging Nigerians to get vaccinated against COVID, the NMA President said: “This is not the first vaccination Nigeria is having. We have vaccines for measles, yellow fever, hepatitis, and of course Poliomyelitis. We all know that vaccine prevents diseases and increase immunity in the body to fight any COVID-19.”

“Getting vaccinated is not a bad idea; it is a good idea that we should be protected against coronavirus so that we don’t lose lives needlessly.” Speaking in similar vein, the Chairman of Medical Guild, Dr. Oluwajimi Sodipo, said the recent announcement by India was in response to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in their country and could be taken to mean that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is efficacious against coronavirus.

On its impact on public health in the country, he said, “As for Nigeria the move may not affect us, as already the government seems to have secured about four million doses of the vaccine for use. However, Sodipo said this was an opportunity for the Federal Government to implore Nigerians, especially the most vulnerable including the elderly, health workers and those with high risk medical conditions to get their doses of the vaccine, while efforts are made through the various international partners to secure extra vaccine doses, considering our population of about 200 million.

“It’s important we vaccinate because we are part of a global village and currently many countries are starting to experience the third wave which could also affect us.” Similarly the vaccine has proved to prevent severe COVID-19 and is safe, hence it is a more cost effective option to stem the tide of COVID-19 for us, added Sodipo.

 

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