A Consultant Public Health Physician, Dr Oluwatomi Owopetu, says a widespread and affordable Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine may not be available in Nigeria earlier than two years to come.
Owopetu, who made the assertion during an online conference hosted by the Centre for Palliative Care, Nigeria, said that this was in spite of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) optimism of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2020.
The WHO had on Tuesday said that there was hope for a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2020.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the online conference was to commemorate the World Hospice and Palliative Care Day 2020 with theme as: “My Comfort, My Care”.
Palliative care is an interdisciplinary medical caregiving approach aimed at optimising quality of life and mitigating suffering among people with serious, complex illnesses.
Owopetu said that while the country awaited the distribution of safe and affordable future vaccines against COVID-19, there must be greater investment into palliative and hospice care.
According to her, a healthy future, disease survival, improved quality of life, decreased hospitalisation and reduction in medical costs cannot be achieved without a sustainable palliative and hospice care.
“Palliative and Hospice Care go beyond providing care and comfort to the dying or those terminally ill.
“It also helps to improve a patient’s quality of life and physical pain management.
“Palliative care during this pandemic should not be undermined, its importance may not be immediately evident as health systems grapple with providing curative care while coping with ever increasing influx of patients.
“Palliative care is of utmost importance for delivering humane, effective care that is aligned with patients’ expectations, including COVID-19 patients, as we seek to improve care and comfort for the numerous patients who require the service.’’
The physician said that COVID-19 resulted in poorer access to controlled medicine, especially for those suffering from chronic illnesses, and increase in disease morbidities and mortalities.
She said that the unprecedented nature of COVID-19 offered huge opportunities to learn lessons on expanding palliative care competencies, stockpiling opioid reserves and reinforcing primary healthcare system.
Also, Dr Richards Afonja, the CEO, American Hospitals and Resort, Lagos, said that in spite its proven benefits, access and acceptance of palliative care was highly limited in Nigeria.
Afonja said that palliative care not only provided comfort for an individual suffering from a serious life-limiting illness, it also helped their families to cope with the grieving and loss in the event of a death.
“Palliative care helps a person grappling with a life-threatening illness to have some dignity and also have the confidence to relate better with their family members as they are dying.
“It can make the process of dying more bearable and reduce the grieving of the family members,” he said.