The third wave of COVID-19 appears to be stabilising in Africa, says Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, WHO Representative to Nigeria.
Mulombo, who stated this at a National Vaccines’ briefing on Tuesday in Abuja, however, added that the number of new cases was still very high, with almost 248, 000 reported in the past week.
He said that the trend on the continent was that each new wave struck ‘Africa faster and harder, reaching a higher number of new cases, more rapidly than the previous wave’.
“This puts an increasing strain on already stretched health facilities and health workers.
“The good news is that, increasing vaccine supplies raises hope that the continent will meet the target of vaccinating 10 percent of the population by the end of September,” he said.
He noted that equitable access to safe and effective vaccines was critical to ending the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that it was hugely encouraging to see vaccines listed for emergency use by WHO, being available for use in Nigeria.
“However, to understand the recent upward trend that Nigeria is experiencing, we must remind ourselves that: weak observance of preventive measures, increased population movement and interaction have heightened the risk of COVID-19 resurgence in many states.
“These factors can contribute to increased case numbers. This ebb and flow in the pandemic’s transmission dynamics is expected and is likely to continue, until a sizeable proportion of the Nigerian population is vaccinated.
“ We have also been asked, at what point would WHO reconsider its position on booster doses”?
” The answer is, first, WHO is looking carefully at the outcome, which is of most relevance from a public health perspective, that is the severe disease, hospitalization and death outcomes.
“ The second consideration is the consistency of the findings. Acting on a single study is just not a sound policy basis. So, we are including the entirety of the evidence.
“The third consideration is around the issue of the risk groups. Recommendations around the use of booster doses will very much be tailored to risk groups which may experience some change in the performance of the vaccines over a period,” he added.
The WHO representative reiterated that while it was important to look at future scenarios, Nigerians must continue to do everything possible to protect themselves now.
“Therefore, WHO continues to recommend a strong public health response, and for individuals to continue to protect themselves by getting vaccinated, maintaining a physical distance, wearing a mask, avoiding poorly ventilated spaces, cleaning hands and following respiratory hygiene,” he explained.
He added that journalists were critical in amplifying these messages.
Also speaking, representative of UNICEF in Nigeria, Dr Peter Hawkins, commended Nigeria for the successful commencement of its second phase of vaccination.
Hawkins also congratulated COVAX for successfully bringing all the vaccine consignments received in Nigeria as part of the COVAX facility, a partnership between CEPI, GAVI, UNICEF and WHO.
He noted that the partnership was committed to the objective of ensuring equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines worldwide.
The UNICEF representative also said that there was now an opportunity for those 1.2 million people who took their first dose of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines to ensure they took their second dose before the end of September, to ensure full protection.
He urged Nigerians to meet their obligations by getting vaccinated and ensuring that the vaccines were not wasted, commending the country for administering between 60 to 70,000 doses everyday.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalled that so far, Nigeria had received an additional four million and eighty (4,000,080) Moderna vaccine doses, donated by the U.S and also received 1,292,640 doses of Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines, donated by the UK government.
This is in addition to receiving the first shipment of 177,600 of Johnson and Johnson vaccine doses from the African Union (AU), single-shot vaccines under the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT). (NAN)