By Chioma Obinna, Gabriel Olawale & Deborah Ariyo
Infectious Disease experts yesterday warned that Nigeria may record more COVID-19 variants if proactive measures were not put in place to ensure eligible Nigerians were vaccinated.
Infectious Disease Physician and the Head, Infectious Disease Unit, Department of Medicine, University of Lagos/ Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Dr. Iorhen Akase, yesterday gave indications of a possible escalation of the existing variants and discovery of new ones in Nigeria,.
“Study has shown that the most cost effective way of getting us as a country out of this pandemic is through vaccination and the benefit of vaccination is not just for the individual but collective gain.
“Regrettably, the country is having challenges with vaccine hesitancy and acceptability. The implication is that people are going to be more at risk of developing severe disease because they are not vaccinated.
“The most salient danger is, when we have infections going on, even if people did not develop severe disease, once infections are going on from person to person in a community and no vaccine is provided for that, there is a possibility that new mutations will still be occurring.
“For viruses, once somebody gets a viral infection, by the time he or she is transferring that same infection to the next person, usually, it is not the same virus that entered that person that leaves the person to infect the other person,” he said.
Akase, who hinted that virus learn as it infect new people, said: “When they realise that a person has build immunity around this line or the other; the virus will say, I also need to adjust and adapt to survive.
“A scenario where you have viral infection occurring in one person to another within a community and there is no control of the transmission there is a possibility that that community that is not getting vaccination is going to be generating new variants and it is going to be more difficult to control because virus learns as they go.
“So if we don’t have a strong vaccination and immune response within a community to interrupt transmission of infections, if people are not getting sick from the current variant that is coming, after sometime, we are going to be hearing about new variants by different names simply because we are unable to control transmission infections..
“Vaccination goes beyond people surviving infection or not, vaccination has benefit in terms of controlling the amount of mutations that is going on when people allow infections to occur. Even if those people are not getting sick the potentials of mutations remain strong.
Akase admonished Nigerians not to panic over Omicron, “Let’s get vaccinated. Let’s obey simple instructions and put on our facemask, maintain social distance, embrace hand hygiene.
In a separate interview, President, of Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, Prof. Innocent Ujah, said measures put in place at different points of entry into the country were not full proof.
“If you ban flight, people can still find other means to enter either by road or sea. The most important is self preservation and self protection.
“We need to increase awareness and ensure people get tested as they come into the country while people in the country also get vaccinated. Non-pharmaceutical guideline such as face mask, social distance, and handwashing must be adhering to.
“People like to blame government but now government have brought vaccine and people refuse to get vaccinated. With increase testing, vaccination and sequencing of the virus, anytime there is new variant, it will be detected on time and that is what South Africa is doing currently.
“Banning flight from Southern Africa is not correct because they have come out with transparency and accountability of the process and it is good they put out that information. Am happy that WHO and Africa CDC have said the same thing,” Ujah said.