Why FG may not rush to give Nigerians COVID-19 vaccines — Scientists

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Nigerian scientists say that immunising Nigerians with COVID-19 vaccine when clinical trials have not been done in the country is very risky and should be reconsidered.

They also expressed worries over its likely long-term impacts.

Nigeria expects its batch of vaccines by first quarter of 2021, with the Director-General of the National Centre for Disease Control, Dr. ChikweIhekweazu, saying that 20 percent of the population would have access to the vaccine.

Speaking on the issue, avirologist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Prof. Sunday Omilabu; and a Pharmaceutical Research Scientist with the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, Abuja, Prof. Martin Emeje, are of the view that immunising Nigerians with COVID-19 vaccine when clinical trials were not done in the country is very risky and should be reconsidered.

According to the World Health Organisation, while three COVID-19 vaccines have received ‘emergency use approval’ of some national regulatory authorities, none of them has received the pre-qualification by the World Health Organisation.

The WHO, however, disclosed that an assessment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is expected by the end of December, adding that assessment of other vaccine candidates will follow thereafter.

According to Nature, the fastest any vaccine had previously been developed, from viral sampling to approval, was four years, and that was for mumps in the 1960s.

Nature in its article, The lightning-fast quest for COVID vaccines — and what it means for other diseases, reported that Pfizer and BioNTech got their vaccines approved less than eight months after the trial started, noting that the rapid turnaround was achieved by overlapping trials and because they did not encounter safety concerns.

The quest for COVID-19 vaccine which started in early 2020 has, therefore, resulted in vaccines being used for immunisation by December – a period of less than a year.

Recall that vaccine developer, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna applied for emergency use approvals for their vaccines in the United States and from the European Union drug regulator after some positive results from their clinical trials.

While the United States Food and Drug Administration has already granted emergency use approval for COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the European Medicines Agency has also approved COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech.

Speaking with newsmen, Prof. Omilabu said Nigeria should exercise caution before accepting to immunise citizens with vaccines that were granted emergency use approval in Europe and the United States.

Omilabu, who is also the director, Centre for Human and Zoonotic Virology at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, said it might be very risky to start immunising Nigerians and Africans with the COVID-19 vaccines as they have not gone through the regular scientific process before the emergency approval.

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