By Chioma Obinna
Alarmed by a possible COVID-19 4th wave, the Nigerian Infectious Diseases Society, NIDS, on Tuesday urged the Federal government to ramp up the stock of COVID-19 vaccines available in the country as well as consider the immediate implementation of booster doses for fully vaccinated adults.
The society also called on Nigerian governments at all levels to enhance molecular surveillance of SARS CoV-2 variants as well as heighten surveillance for the virus across all ports of entry.
Making this call in a communique issued at the end of its 9th Annual General Meeting & Scientific Conference in Lagos and jointly signed by the President of NIDS, Prof Dimie Ogoina and the General Secretary, NIDS, Dr Uche Unigwe, the society called on all Nigerians to present themselves for COVID-19 vaccination as all vaccines used in Nigeria are safe and effective.
They also advised the government to ensure that the immunocompromised and other vulnerable adults get the booster doses as well as commence the vaccination of children and adolescents.
The Infectious diseases experts said with the current poor COVID-19 risk perception among the general population, increase in international travel and emerging SARS CoV-2 variants of concern, high vaccine hesitancy among the public and healthcare workers, and low COVID-19 vaccination coverage, it all suggest that Nigeria was still at risk of a 4th wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Vaccination remains the most cost-effective strategy to protect the population against COVID-19.
“NIDS is urging the Federal Government of Nigeria to ramp up the stock of COVID-19 vaccines available in the country and consider the immediate implementation of booster doses for fully vaccinated adults, especially the immunocompromised and other vulnerable adults, as well as vaccination of children and adolescents.
“This strategy will guarantee adequate population protection against COVID-19, ensure fully vaccinated adults have longer-lasting immunity, protect vulnerable children and adolescents from developing severe disease and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 from unvaccinated children and adolescents to adults,” they stated.
They further urged the Federal and State Governments to accelerate the implementation of its vaccine manufacturing initiatives, improve funding for health security and health research as well as expand health insurance coverage via legislation, rely on best evidence and the peculiarities of the Nigerian context in implementing public interventions targeting COVID-19 and other epidemics.
They stressed the need to strengthen the implementation of Infection Prevention Control, IPC, in healthcare facilities, and leverage on private Public Partnership, PPP, to improve preparedness and response to the COVID-19 outbreak and other epidemics in Nigeria.
The society stated that the prevention and response to Infectious Disease threats in the country was constrained by non-implementation of infection prevention and control IPC in healthcare facilities, low health insurance coverage, inadequate PPP in healthcare, poor health research funding and limited investments in health security by both Federal and State governments in Nigeria.
They further called on governments at all levels and health stakeholders to relentlessly implement persuasion-based interventions against vaccine hesitancy in Nigeria in, adding that, in other not to be counterproductive, mandatory vaccination should be implemented with caution, without interfering with fundamental human rights.
“The Society observed that infectious diseases such as COVID-19, Lassa fever, Cholera, Malaria, Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and re-emergence of Poliovirus, among others, as well as the challenge of antimicrobial resistance, continue to threaten public health in Nigeria,”
Commending the Federal and State Governments of Nigeria, for providing leadership and strategic direction in Nigeria’s response to various disease challenges, including the ongoing mass COVID-19 vaccination campaigns, NIDS acknowledged the contributions and sacrifices of healthcare workers to the COVID-19 response, despite challenges of poor health infrastructure and inadequate remuneration.
They reaffirmed its strong commitment to advocacy, public sensitization, research, training, and partnership toward advancing the prevention and control of ID in Nigeria, especially in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.