The Federal Government has said top Nigerian scientists alongside experts from Germany were currently developing a vaccine for Lassa fever at Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in Benin, Edo State. Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who made this known while briefing journalists yesterday in Abuja, revealed that the vaccine was in its first stage of trial.
Currently, there are five diagnostic centres for Lassa fever in the country, namely: National Reference Laboratory in Abuja, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Federal Medical Centre Owo and Alex Ekwueme Federal Teaching Hospital Abakalilki. While noting that the country has five strategically placed diagnostic laboratories for testing Lassa fever, he explained that it would require some time to test and determine if the vaccine was safe and works. He added that the vaccine would have to go through several stages of quality control before it could be deployed.
He said: “Top Nigerian scientists in Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital are working on a vaccine for Lassa fever in collaboration with German experts. They have conducted a first stage trial. It might take a couple of years to completely develop it because developing a vaccine is in stages. “Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital is Nigeria’s centre for excellence for that kind of sickness; viral hemorrhagic infections. It is where a lot of research is being conducted, and where a lot of tests are being done.
“They have a lot of equipment and get a lot of support from abroad, including German, British and American Institutes. “We have five laboratories that can diagnose Lassa fever, and they are strategically placed. In fact, we are in the process of getting a six one now courtesy of West African Health Organisation, which we also want to place strategically so that the distance towards getting samples to laboratories is minimal.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) will decide on the strategic location. “Last weekend, I was in Kano and the governor took me to a very good laboratory, but it is not yet activated. The Director-General of the NCDC will visit that laboratory together with the Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, and also the Registrar of the Medical Laboratory Council.