By Sola Ogundipe
African leaders, including ministers of health, finance, and other line ministries from Nigeria and at least 50 other African countries are meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to discuss the potential of developing, manufacturing and implementing effective Zika virus and Lassa virus vaccines on the continent.
This came as the Centres for Diseases Control and Prevention, CDC, recommended that men exposed to Zika virus and who had a pregnant partner, should abstain from sexual intercourse or use a condom until the baby was born.
Also, for the first time, scientists have isolated laboratory evidence that Zika virus was present and active in the saliva and urine of persons affected by the virus.
Tagged the First Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa, the meeting, which holds in a fortnight, under the auspices of the World Health Organization Regional Offices for Africa (AFRO) and the Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO), in conjunction with the African Union Commission, is designed to ensure that people across the continent had access to life-saving vaccines against vaccine preventable disorders.
Confirming the development to Vanguard in a telephone teleconference, the Programme Coordinator of WHO Afro Region, Dr Richard Mihigo,said the high point of the conference would be the celebration of the success story of the MenAfriVac meningitis vaccine, that was tailor-made for affected African countries.
His words: “It is amazing to see how most countries in the Africa region have introduced new vaccines in the last 10 years, but we still have a lot of diseases that could be prevented by vaccines and these include Lassa fever, Dengue fever and, of course, Zika fever.
“Definitely, there will be discussion in research and also for the capacity of African countries to actually try to manufacture some of these vaccines on the continent.
“As we have seen with Ebola in West Africa, this brings to the forefront the need to actually invest regionally and globally on research and development of vaccines that are actually of interest to the Africa region in particular.”
Mihigo argued that the same method utilized to create demand for development of the meningitis A vaccine several years ago would be utilized to demand for vaccines against Zika virus and other vaccine preventable disorders threatening countries within the Africa Region.
Guidelines for men affected by Zika
In a related development, as part of measures aimed at preventing sexual transmission of the Zika virus, men exposed to the virus and who have a pregnant partner, have been urged to abstain from sex or use a condom until the baby was born.
Issuing the new guidelines, weekend, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, also recommended that pregnant women who had been exposed to the Zika virus should be tested for the virus.
Zika virus active in saliva, urine
Meanwhile, for the first time, a Brazilian laboratory has demonstrated that Zika virus , active in saliva and urine, posed new questions for researchers trying to understand how the virus could spread.