Urges NAFDAC to do the needful about vaccines
By Chioma Obinna & Gabriel Olawale
A medical Laboratory Scientist & Public Health Analyst, Dr Casmir Ifeanyi, has lamented that the sampling and testing structures put in place in the country at the beginning of the pandemic have collapsed.
In a chat with Good Health Weekly, Ifeanyi, who is former National Secretary, Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria, AMLSN, said Nigeria should urgently commence sustainable and active surveillance and sampling protocol, to make up for the gaps in testing.
“We are not testing enough. Early last year we had only five testing laboratories, today we have over 100, unfortunately, the capacity that we get in a day is not adequate compared to our population.”
In his view, “the NCDC just gives the number of positive cases on daily basis, they should also put side-by-side, the number of tests. It will help us to give more public health significance to testing that is ongoing.
“The truth is that enough samples are not being collected daily. The logistics of sampling is very challenging now. At the early time when we had the pandemic, people were being paid to do the sampling and contact tracing, but all those structures have collapsed. They are no longer supported and so the outcome has become very questionable and weak.”
Further, Ifeanyi said the problem was not a result of the shortage of human resources.
“The managers of the government testing facilities are frugal with the recruitment of persons to support the testing process. That is the challenge. With the second wave now, it has become very pertinent that we need to review the way we recruit personnel in the Covid response.
“Particularly, we need to commence sustainable and active surveillance and sampling protocol, that is the only way we would be able to give a true picture of the second wave and the overall pandemic in Nigeria,” he asserted.
On the issue of the COVID-19 vaccines, Ifeanyi said that the alarm raised by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, is worrisome and raises a whole lot of questions.
“NAFDAC is the watchman of medical devices and drugs that come into Nigeria, if the watchman is the first to give an uncertain tone, for me, it is worrisome. The COVID-19 vaccines have not become commonplace across the globe so we least expected NAFDAC to start crying foul, Government is expected to be the one driving the procurement process and making the vaccines available in Nigeria.
According to Ifeanyi, the alarm raised by NAFDAC cast doubt on the procurement process by the government. “I expect the government to be solely in charge in this response. You can see that it is largely in Nigeria you will see such alarm been raised about fake vaccines, you have not heard it in any other part of the world. It shows how Nigerians to leverage all manner of challenges for profit at the detriment of fellow human beings.
“The NAFDAC D-G should sit up and do the needful. They should ensure that when the government finally procures the vaccine, they will be in the picture and ensure that Nigerians do not fall victim to fakes.
Further, he argued that Nigeria is often considered a dumping ground where people don’t want to comply with in-country regulations.
“For example, the Medical Laboratory Council of Nigeria as of today has not validated any Covid-19 rapid testing kits for use in Nigeria, but I can tell you that private hospitals in Abuja and Lagos and other institutions have commenced their use. That is what they want to extend to the vaccines.
“As a nation that has a very poor health system and infrastructure, we need to be careful as we approach the vaccine. We must be careful with the deployment of vaccine,” he warned.