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How to contain COVID-19 without vaccines, by experts

By Chukwuma Muanya
31 December 2021   |   4:05 am
Medical Director, Optimal Specialist Hospitals Ltd, Surulere, Lagos, Dr. Celestine Chukwunenye, has said that the country can contain COVID-19 without getting into the vaccine race.

Medical Director, Optimal Specialist Hospitals Ltd, Surulere, Lagos, Dr. Celestine Chukwunenye, has said that the country can contain COVID-19 without getting into the vaccine race.

Chukwunenye, who is an obstetrician and gynaecologist, said what they need and the rest of the communities need especially here in Africa where it has been established beyond doubt that we are not affected by the virus the way the temperate countries are, include social distancing, avoidance of crowded places, frequent washing of hands with running water and soap, wearing of face masks in high-risk public places, drinking of hot fluids including teas, soups, and water at least mornings and nights, steaming of the mouth and nostrils every morning and night for those at high risk, and the use recommended prophylactic drugs (for this, knowledgeable medical doctors should be consulted).

He said socio-political events should be done in open spaces, or in halls with good ventilation and some of their windows and doors partially or fully open. The physician said gathering of people lasting more than three hours are best avoided and for those who can, spending some hours every day under the hot sun like hawkers and some artisans, may be helpful. “As the local saying goes, “cow way no get tail, na God dey drive flies away for am,” he said.

Chukwunenye further explained: “Above measures are effective, and should be our main weapon in the COVID-19 fight. Attempts at railroading us into the Covid-19 vaccination race, which we know we don’t have any chance of succeeding, should be resisted. Instead, our meagre resources should be used in promoting above measures, and other cost effective health measures for the benefit of our people. Only those who travel overseas or intend to travel overseas should be bordered with COVID-19 vaccination, and that is a very small percentage of the populace. This is the approach used for Yellow fever vaccination.”

He said Nigeria couldn’t afford this COVID-19 vaccination exercise for the first two doses at the going rate. “We have not achieved 10 per cent vaccination of the population with two doses. And until we vaccinate up to 70 per cent of the population, the herd immunity we seek to achieve with it will remain a mirage. It is therefore unthinkable that some Nigerians are going for the third and fourth doses. May be they are of the opinion that by so doing, their individual immunity will be enhanced. That is erroneous thinking. The only advantage is of a psychological nature. When they mingle with someone from Europe or America who has taken four doses, they will not feel they are lacking but they are still in real danger living in a community where most people have not been vaccinated,” Chukwunenye said.

A virologist and vaccinologist, Dr. Simon Agwale, said the key question should be availability and not affordability. He said somehow the world will be able to figure out how to get the vaccines across to people if they are available.

Agwale said: “Just about the time the vaccines are becoming available in Africa, we are now hit with the reality of first generation COVID-19 vaccines. It is now clear from various studies that the protective efficacy of the currently available covid-19 vaccines wanes over time and also vaccinated people can be reinfected because they are unable to prevent breakthrough infections and this therefore allows transmission to other people. Preliminary data however showed that these first-generation vaccines still retain their ability to prevent severe and fatal disease.”

The virologist said the limitations of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines suggest that they will ultimately need to be replaced by second-generation vaccines that induce more broadly protective and more durable immunity. “This is the focus of our company where we are using a Virus-Like-Particle (VLP) vaccine platform which enables us to mix several vaccines from the different variants together and this is in addition to the fact that we are able to express other proteins of the virus and not just the ‘Spike’ protein which is what is currently obtainable. We believe with this strategy and the fact that we just signed an agreement with Merck KGaA, Germany to establish a domestic vaccine manufacturing facility in Nigeria, we’ll be able to defeat the virus,” he said.