Agency in hurry to approve Russian vaccine — IFEANYI

Nigeria too dependent on Western countries — TOMORI

FG should urgently procure more vaccine doses — ASHIRU

By Sola Ogundipe, Chioma Obinna & Gabriel Olawale

Nigerian health experts have tasked the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, to probe available COVID-19 vaccines more deeply than it is currently doing before giving approval for their use in the country.

 Just last week, NAFDAC, announced approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine from Korea, and the conditional approval of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.

Earlier in the year, NAFDAC had granted approval to the AstraZeneca and PfizerBioNTech vaccines. But the experts who spoke to Vanguard, argued that beyond announcing the granting of the approval, the agency should make public the criteria for the approval.

NAFDAC in hurry to approve Russian vaccine — IFEANYI

Expressing concern over the manner of approval of COVID-19 vaccines,  in the country, former National Publicity Secretary of Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria, AMLSN, Dr Casmir Ifeanyi charged NAFDAC to be more technical in approach.

“I saw it as a mockery the other day when NAFDAC said they are undergoing WHO accreditation and validation. My concern is that NAFDAC is not a producing facility, NAFDAC is a regulated facility. So is the accreditation and validation for vaccine production or for the purpose of the regulation? NAFDAC is not a company, it’s a regulatory agency.

“I think NAFDAC is too much in hurry to approve the Russian vaccine that is largely questioned by the World Health Organisation, WHO. Sometimes when you rush to do things you make mistakes. I expect NAFDAC to be technical in approach.

“The approval of various types of vaccines by NAFDAC especially those not currently available in the country is questionable. Is this approval based on clinical evidence validation of these vaccines in the country, or the approval is just based on literature review?

“If it’s on literature review, it is unacceptable because of individual variation. So I will want NAFDAC to come clean as to how they made this approval. They should also publish the scientific evidence justifying the approval because we do not have that in the public domain yet.”

Noting that Nigerian health experts have questions about the approval by NAFDAC, Ifeanyi said their major worry is the approval of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. “We all know that the WHO is laying back at embracing the Russian vaccine while most other parts of the world are also laying back, the question is why is NAFDAC going ahead to approve it?

“Is it that they are working underground to get the Russian vaccine gifted to Nigeria, what is the body of knowledge available about the efficacy of the Russian vaccine? In giving approval, was it based on a literature review submitted by the Russian company? NAFDAC should make public the predictive value on which that approval was made.”

According to Ifeanyi, NAFDAC should go beyond relying on what the manufacturers present to give approval. In his argument

“The NAFDAC approval of the Russian COVID-19 vaccine might be that there is a programme by the Russian government to give the vaccine to Nigeria, otherwise it is not in the front line of vaccines that we can use, it is not even in the vaccine portfolio for EU vaccine passport.

“However, if the approval was made on the basis of jovial appraisal, then I think that NAFDAC is not doing enough. But if the approvals were based on clinical evidence coming from validation and verification by laboratory analysis, then NAFDAC is living up to its mandate of safeguarding the health of the nation,” he stated.

Ifeanyi explained that it was important for Nigeria not to leave its gate too widely open by such arbitrary approvals because, according to him,  “a time will come that the government would hands-off treatment of Covid-19,  leaving the patients to care for themselves, and individuals would be bringing in all types of vaccines to be approved for use in the country.

“I think it’s important we stick with the guideline and what we do hereby covid-19 should be what dictated by WHO, and countries in EU. It is important that government spare no resource in acquiring vaccines for Nigerians.

Ifeanyi who also appealed to the federal government to use appropriated funds in the 2021 budget for the procurement of the COVID-19 vaccine, said that the country cannot afford to rely on donor agency in the face of rising cases of the delta variant.

Ï expect the federal government to utilise  money in the 2021 budget for the purpose of vaccine procurement.

“With the COVID-19 third wave and discovery of Delta variant, we should do more in procuring vaccine and safe the life of Nigerians particularly now that people have shunned non-pharmaceutical intervention.

Nigeria too dependent on West — TOMORI

Noting that it was time for Nigeria to wake up and stop what he described as  “shameful” dependence on the West, a renowned virologist, Prof Oyewale  Tomori declared that the European Union has the right to approve or not to approve any vaccine even when they provided funds to produce a vaccine in a country.

Tomori said: “India or China or any other manufacturer still has to seek approval from Europe. For example, no vaccine will be approved for use in Nigeria until NAFDAC  approves, WHO approval, notwithstanding. 

“The solution is not going cap in hand begging Europe to change her approval; the solution is to go and make your own vaccine.

“While Europe can threaten us with their green vaccine pass or visa, they dare not threaten India China or Russia, because those countries can also prevent those vaccinated with European approved vaccines from entering their countries, saying, if you will not give my vaccine a travel pass, I too will not give yours a pass to my country.

“It will be a balance of vaccines. But when you are like us in Africa, with the virus but not our own homemade vaccine we can only beg and plead.”

FG should urgently procure more vaccine doses — ASHIRU

Also speaking, the President of the Academy of Medicine Specialties of Nigeria,  Prof Oladapo Ashiru, charged the Federal government to step up its response to the pandemic.

Decrying the relaxed attitude that Nigerians currently have to the pandemic and the very low levels of vaccine coverage, he said the government should procure more vaccine doses and begin mass screening of persons.

“Government should make concerted efforts to buy Johnson & Johnson vaccine and other approved vaccines and begin mass vaccination. Waiting for free COVAX vaccine doses will not cope with the imminent danger unless greater percentage of the people are vaccinated,” Ashiru remarked.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.