By Sola Ogundipe
A renowned virologist, Prof Sunday Omilabu, has cautioned against vaccinating Nigerians that have acquired natural immunity to the COVID-19 virus.
Omilabu who is the director of the Centre for Human and Zoonotic Virology at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital and the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, said giving the COVID-19 vaccine to such people could jeopardize their natural immunity.
The virologist, who is currently working on the sequencing of the Nigerian variant of the COVID-19 virus discovered recently, warned that Nigeria and other African countries should handle the issue of vaccination cautiously because most Africans have an innate immunity that is playing down on the virulence of the virus.
Speaking on the heels of the Federal government’s announcement that 100,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines were being expected in the country by the end of January, the scientist said only persons with confirmed low immunity should be immunised because they stand to benefit the most from the vaccine.
“In Nigeria and other African countries, we have to be cautious because we have an innate immunity that is playing down on the virulence of the virus,” he stated.
“At present, the majority of us are carrying the virus without knowing that we carry it because the immunity in us is fighting the virus and playing it down so that the virulence will not show. We only see the virus’ effects in people with low level immunity,” he argued.
Omilabu said: “We are not experiencing the same virulence they are experiencing abroad, so if we should now introduce a vaccine to an individual that has innate immunity, the vaccine might jeopardize that immunity.
“My advice would be that before we jab anybody, we should make sure that they have low level immunity to SARS-COV2 (Covid-19) virus otherwise, the vaccine could jeopardise the natural immunity that we are enjoying right away.
“It is that natural immunity that is actually blocking the virus from causing adverse effects in the individuals that have the immunity. Those whose immunity is zero need to be primed so that they would have some level of immunity to depend on.
“You should do an antibody test first, so that we can know the level of natural immunity which is our level of exposure to related coronaviruses that have been in the environment for years.
“This innate immunity has a role to protect us from infection by a related virus. That is the principle of vaccination – for vaccines to develop some level of immunity in an individual before that individual is exposed to a disease pathogen,” he remarked.