Medical doctors, including an immunologist and an allergist have warned that many more Nigerians may still die even after COVID-19 vaccination, saying that human body is a factory for production of antibodies which are the real vaccine that protects the human body. They insist that the Federal Government’s effort towards fighting the dreaded virus should be focused on up-scaling the existing channels of distribution of Ivermectin (IVM) in both urban and rural areas which protects people against COVID-19 and River Blindness parasites. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports
Medical experts and others have said that more Nigerians may still die even after COVID-19 vaccination, saying that Nigeria, with a population of about 200 million people, would need roughly 400 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine which will cost an estimated $15.6 billion, about 44 per cent of the Nigeria’s 2021 national budget ($35.66 billion).
They insist that it may not be prudent for a country to spend all her resources on a vaccine which could be ineffective when a new strain emerges; saying that one of such effective drugs that slow viral multiplication in the human body is Ivermectin (IVM) or Stromectol (Mectizan).
Experts, who revealed that scientists are still learning how to deal with this fast changing scenario, noted that the strategy in tackling this menace in the low-income countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, should focus on reducing the viral replication in the body with drugs. Sunday Telegraph learnt that after IVM was discovered to have microfilacidal activity and proven to be well tolerated, it was adopted in Nigeria in 1992 for mass distribution under the Primary Health Care (PHC) scheme.
According to an analysis by a pharmacologist, Pharm. Ifeanyi Onwubalili, investigators have also demonstrated that IVM is effective in stopping COVID-19 viral replication in patients, saying it will do Nigeria and other low income African countries much more good to distribute and ensure the availability of IVM across board.
He noted that Nigeria’s 2021 health budget stands at N547 billion (or $1.4 billion), which is only one tenth of the money needed to purchase the vaccine, meaning that Nigeria may have to commit the entire health budget for the next 10 years from 2021 to 2030 to secure the Pfizer vaccine.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), there have been 108,943 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 1,420 deaths in Nigeria, from January 3 to 18 this year. More so, the 2019 World Malaria Report, recorded Nigeria with the highest number of global malaria cases (25 % of global cases) estimated to be about 57 million cases, in 2018 and accounted for the highest number of deaths (24 % of global total) estimated at 96,000 deaths with under five mortality rate of 102,377 in 2015.
Sequel to this, Pharm Onwubalili, stressed that the budgetary demands, specifically to make the vaccine available for a lower health priority disease compared to malaria with high mortality rate may be considered beyond the pale.
Sunday Telegraph learnt that even when the cost of the vaccine is shared with voluntary agencies and donor organisations, it’s still problematic as appropriating such resources and manpower for a vaccination programme could skew the entire health system and create damage by retooling the country’s health system to serve the needs of the Nigerians.
An expert in the Health Maintenance Organisation (HMO), Mr. Johnson Idris, warned that any attempt to restructure the health system by mobilising resources and manpower to administer the vaccine would create a total neglect of all other critical care areas of care in the health sector and would result in deaths of millions of Nigerians from major infectious diseases, cardiovascular diseases and cancers.
Should the vaccine strategy be adopted in Nigeria, where such huge of money is given to the programme, he noted, it will no longer be a COVID-19 pandemic but a total collapse of the country’s health system in the foreseeable future.
Reflecting on the COVID-19 Messenger Ribonucleic Acid (mRNA) vaccine, a medical consultant, Dr. (Mrs.) Cynthia Obiora said, mRNA molecules carry the genetic information needed to make proteins, noting that they carry the information from the DNA in the nucleus of the cell to the cytoplasm where the proteins are made.
She said: “For COVID-19 vaccines, the mRNA carries the instructions needed to tell the body how to create a piece of the ‘spike protein’ unique to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
The vaccines have this mRNA, encased in a bubble of oily molecules called lipids. “The bubbles are coated with a stabilising molecule of polyethylene glycol (PEG), which according to some investigators, maybe linked to severe allergic reactions.”
Describing PEGs as petroleum-based compounds that are widely used in creams as thickeners, solvents, softeners and moisture- carriers, she said, “Some products containing PEG could elicit skin allergic reactions in Nigerians.”
Corroborating her, the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC), the United Kingdom (UK) and Canadian regulators have issued advisories, noting that the vaccines could cause a severe allergic reaction called anaphylactic shock, stating that PEG has never been used before in an approved vaccine, but it is found in many drugs that have
occasionally triggered anaphylaxis—a lifethreatening reaction that can cause rashes, a fall in blood pressure, difficulty breathing, and a fast heartbeat.
Speaking further, a retired allergist, Dr. Olaifa Kayode of the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, believes that some people who have been previously exposed to PEG may have high levels of antibodies against PEG, putting them at risk of an anaphylactic reaction to the vaccine which may be severe.
He noted that there was an evidence of some degree of problems in the development of vaccines against coronaviruses such as the SARS-COV-1 and MERS in the early 2000’s, noting that scientists vaccinated the animals with the four most promising vaccines and different results were gotten.
He stressed that while the experiment seemed successful at first, as all the animals developed a robust antibody response to coronavirus, however, when the scientists exposed the vaccinated animals to the wild virus, the animals were devastated.
Sunday Telegraph learnt that the vaccinated animals were said to have suffered hyper (over)-immune responses including inflammation throughout their bodies, especially in their lungs.
A scientist and an expert in Immunology, Dr. Chidi Philip, said while the impressive results seen with robust immunity after the vaccine could be the expected initial positive reaction, there could be pathogenic priming which means that on exposure to the wild virus, the vaccinated people may still develop the disease and get sicker and die.
He noted that the effort and resources to acquire COVID-19 vaccines may all become wasted because of the rarest commodity in Nigeria called uninterrupted electric power supply for refrigeration of the vaccines, should this programme goes on. He said: “Our other childhood vaccination programmes have lagged behind schedule because of unavailable cold chain. There is an even greater challenge now with the COVID-19 vaccine.
The vaccine made by Pfizer needs to be kept extremely cold: at minus 70 degrees Celsius, which is colder than winter in Antarctica.
“The Moderna vaccine needs to be frozen at minus 20 Celsius, more like a regular freezer. It should be expected that as the vaccines arrive to the final destinations in Nigeria for overnight storage awaiting the next-day administration, workers could come to meet the entire storage facility in darkness without overnight power and all the ice-gone and vaccines worth 10 times our national health budget all inactivated because we Never Expect Power Always (NEPA).
What a waste of scarce resources! “In the course of the COVID-19 disease, there is the initial replication (multiplication) of the virus in the body of the patient, then, the release of chemicals into the blood stream called Cytokine Storm and then blood clots forming or thrombosis obstructing flow of blood in the vessels. “The strategy chosen is selected to address these stages.
The COVID-19 vaccine strategy advocated by some is not suitable for our condition in Nigeria.
When a pandemic starts the viruses mutates, SARSCoV- 2 mutates regularly, acquiring about one new mutation in its genome every two weeks and more deaths may be recorded even after vaccination.” According to some studies, a new variant strain of SARS-CoV-2 that contains a series of mutations has been discovered in the United Kingdom (UK) and become highly prevalent in London and southeast England.
Based on these mutations, this variant strain has been predicted to be potentially more rapidly transmissible than other circulating strains of SARS-CoV-2. He observes that each geographic area may have a predominant strain, so what works in the United States may not work here in Nigeria, saying that this changing dynamics means that a vaccine said to be effective against one strain may turn out to be less effect or even not effective against another strain of the virus somewhere else.
Corroborating the earlier position, he noted that one such effective drug that slows viral multiplication in the human body is IVM or Stromectol, drugs previously used for veterinary purposes as a broad-spectrum antihelminthes.
He said: “This would mean that in persons with mild or moderate COVID-19 symptoms, IVM could be integrated into the overall care that would prevent the multiplication of the virus in the body. This will allow the immune system time to produce the antibodies against the COVID-19 regardless of the variant of the invading strain of the virus.
“The human body is a factory for the production of antibodies which are the real vaccines that protect a person. The effort of the Federal Government should be focused on up-scaling the existing channels of distribution of IVM in both urban and rural areas.
“Through this reasonably sound strategy we can protect people against COVID-19, parasites particularly River Blindness. The miracle of it all is that some big pharmacy companies were really generous. Merck