•Says G7 Summit’ll address vaccine misinformation, others

By Charles Kumolu, Deputy Editor

Dr. Aminu Muhamud is a medical professional based in England. He taught at the University of Liverpool f or 10 years, after which he worked in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Mahamud is currently the CEO of a pharmaceutical company in  Liverpool.

In this interview, he speaks on the management of COVID-19 by global superpowers and how the G7 Summit scheduled for June 2, would address vaccine misinformation.

The G7 summit  in Cornwall, UK, is expected to inspire the international community to support vulnerable countries whose economies are currently crippled by COVID-19 pandemic. How do you think this conference will help African countries, especially Nigeria?

 The G7 summit involving the world’s richest industrialized nations would discuss topics such as global vaccine confidence, climate change, and the economy. Efforts are being made to control the spread of COVID-19 and encourage vaccination to prevent another pandemic. The UK government will convene the World Vaccination Summit to roll out the vaccine misinformation against COVID-19. The UK government would convene the World Summit on June 2, bringing together experts in the public and private sectors. The conference would look at new ways to address the problem of misinformation and support life-saving efforts of COVID-19 prevention worldwide. 

 Speakers at the event include Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, and Professor Heidi Larson, Executive Director of the Immunization Trust Foundation at the London School of Health and Tropical Medicine. More international speakers are to be announced on social media. On June 2, the British government would convene the World Immunization Summit to drive the vaccine against Covid. Data continues to pose a serious threat to global recovery from epidemics by undermining the understanding of the importance, safety, and quality of vaccines. 

 The UK is working through G7 leadership to improve access to coronavirus vaccines, treatments, and tests worldwide. And trust in vaccines is a big part of that. Other speakers at the one-day event include Matt Hancock, Ministry of Health and Public Health Secretary, UK Government, and Professor Heidi Larson, Director of the Vaccination Foundation at the School of Health and Tropical Medicine London. They would also discuss ways in which governments, civil society, and the private sector including social media can tackle false information about vaccines and expand public health messages to improve immunization capacity. Some of Britain’s top health officials have spoken out about the importance of the vaccine. Vaccination is the way out of the epidemic, and no one gets well until we all survive.

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There are still some concerns in the international community, especially in Africa, where Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari complained at a summit in France that African countries are still short of vaccines. Do you think the G7 Summit would address this need?

I think the truth is, it will be very difficult to get Africa fully vaccinated right now, except in the next two years or so. In the UK, 60 percent of the population is vaccinated. This shows that there are still 40 percent cases of unvaccinated persons. And the majority are children, but if you look at the rest of Europe, you would see that the number of people who have been vaccinated is less than that. And if you look at the vaccines that are now popular in the world, you would find that it would be difficult for them to prosper in African countries. In the last one year, more than 160 vaccines have been researched but so far, only 10 vaccines are currently approved. This does not mean that the rest have been abandoned. Research is still being done on them. There are also clinical trials. There are four stages that any vaccine or drugs should follow before approval or certification. Some vaccines are now in the second or third stages, but some countries have already approved some of the vaccines. 

 There are currently about 16 vaccines in use. Some may go to nearby African countries, but some of the four I mentioned earlier, are not necessary because of the high cost. For example, if you look at vaccines produced by Pfizer, which are stored at temperatures as low as -60 ° C, it is extremely difficult to obtain that in Africa. They are expensive compared to other vaccines, which cost around $ 30.

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But if you look at other vaccines like this AstraZeneca which is now the most popular in the world, which is now signed by more than 140 countries and accepted for some reasons, I can see that it is cheaper compared to Pfizer. AstraZeneca is not more than three US dollars. It can be stored in a normal refrigerator. In my opinion, it is possible to get enough vaccines if the major groups,G7, EU, and others, or big countries like the UK, United States, and China, come up with a new initiative to support African countries with adequate vaccines. Without that, it is unlikely to achieve enough vaccines by 2022 or 2023. Getting improvements on having enough vaccines with people’s confidence and fighting against misinformation regarding Covid19 vaccines are part of the G7 summit agenda. 

Illiteracy is considered a  setback in the vaccination drive, especially in Africa. How can it be addressed?

 This is the truth, here in the UK, you would see health and political leaders also talking about the same issue you are talking about now. As I said earlier, the G7 Summit would discuss the misinformation being spread about the vaccine. Without good health in the world, there won’t be economic growth. For example, in the UK, there are very few people who have not been vaccinated, but if you open up about what is happening in other parts of the world, you would realise that people who do not get one of these vaccines can bring backwardness. What I think can help in the fight against this disease is that people who want to travel to other countries may have to carry a vaccination certificate

There are a lot of skepticisms in Africa about the vaccine, similar to what obtains in countries like India…

This does not have to be the case. There is a human rights issue in a country like India. Therefore, the issue of public awareness must be employed as the G7 countries are planning to address the misinformation being spread about vaccination. They should identify the causes of the problem and the likely outbreak of a new coronavirus in the coming months. They are capable of producing doses quickly and efficiently. Three months ago, we heard about Indian politicians complaining about President Modi. AstraZeneca which is famous but also manufactured in India is owned by the British. Indians see President Modi as reluctant to get Indians vaccinated. They felt he is more concerned about earning more money by selling vaccines. They felt it is the reason the Indian population has not been fully vaccinated, unlike in China, where they have developed and currently vaccinated more than 40 percent of the population. Usually, a small number of people in every country is skeptical about the vaccine, but as a health official, I think this is nothing. It shows us that the information we gave them to raise awareness did not work. And we need to resatisfy them with satisfactory information. 

At one point, China and Russia developed their vaccines…

If you look at how scientists are researching all over the world, you would understand what happens when COVID-19 disease becomes a new phenomenon in every country. 

And countries like the one you mentioned often offer grants for scientific research for the benefit of their citizens. For these reasons, the world’s major powers are working to find a solution to this problem. As I said before, there are vaccines in the pipeline and some have already been approved. China has about six vaccines. They are all different and each came from different research institutes. Surprisingly, they are all used in China. In the world of politics, you can’t imagine China waiting for the US or the UK to vaccinate before vaccinating its citizens. After all, every country wants to be a leader in the face of such problems.

What are your thoughts and suggestions on how China can provide support to African countries including Nigeria?

 Everyone knows no country can just donate a vaccine to Nigeria just like that. Nigerian scientists must research the effectiveness of any vaccine before it can be used. As I said earlier, it is a four-step process. Even if China sends the Riga vaccine, it would be closely monitored to make sure everything goes smoothly

Africa’s health sector is not strong enough to deal with epidemics. Do you think the G7 Summit can make a special case for Africa in the area of managing epidemics?

 What everyone knows long before the Coronavirus, is that countries like the UK, US, and Japan have special agencies that support African or developing countries. Some are UKaid, USAID and others. So, they would increase this, especially as China sends some of its medical professionals to developing countries.

At the beginning of the global outbreak of Coronavirus, Madagascar’s President claimed to have found a cure. But the World Health Organization (WHO) later asked the country to submit the product for further evaluation. What do you think happened?  

 I would be happy to hear that a cure emerged in Africa, but as a health worker, I know it is difficult to find a cure for COVID -19 without scientific research and certification.  

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