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COVID-19: Nigeria records highest single day infection

By Chukwuma Muanya (Deputy Editor), Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze (Abuja) and Monday Osayande (Asaba)
23 December 2021   |   3:56 am
Barely a day after the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed the country was now in the fourth wave of COVID-19 with over 500 per cent increase in infections across the country...

Four deaths, 2,123 new cases as Yuletide festivities heighten
• NAFDAC, NPHCDA destroy over 1m expired vaccines
• Delta State reports 395 cases of Omicron variant
• Vaccine inequality, booster programmes will prolong pandemic, WHO laments
• Concerns as Nigerians may need a fourth dose of vaccine to ensure protection from Omicron
• Experts insist country remains vulnerable to massive fourth and more waves

Barely a day after the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed the country was now in the fourth wave of COVID-19 with over 500 per cent increase in infections across the country, Nigeria recorded 2,123 new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, its highest ever daily infection since the outbreak of the virus in February 2020.

Wednesday’s figure released by NCDC was 755 higher than the 1,368 infections recorded on Tuesday. It was the first time Nigeria was experiencing a ballooning of its daily difference in new infections and a sharp increase in the number of fatalities as festive activities heighten across the country.

According to the NCDC figures, Lagos State, which remains the country’s epicentre of the infection, led the new infections table with 1,552 cases. It was followed by the FCT with 197 cases and Edo with 155 infections.

With the latest figure, the number of active COVID-19 cases in Nigeria stood at 12,547. This shows an increase of 3,039 when compared with the 9,508 active cases previously.

NCDC stated also that four new COVID-19 deaths were recorded on Tuesday, taking the death toll to 2,989. Wednesday’s figure took Nigeria’s infection level to 227,378.

Delta State Commissioner of Health, Dr. Mordi Ononye, yesterday, said a total of 395 cases of Omicron variant were recorded in the state. Ononye said a total of 3,295 tests for the Omicron variant have been conducted since the spike of the virus, while 395 persons tested positive for the new variant.

Ononye urged residents in the state to comply with COVID-19 precautionary rules, saying that a single dose of vaccination cannot confer immunity on any individual.

YESTERDAY, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) alongside the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) destroyed 1,066,214 expired doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. These were part of the 2,594,100 doses of vaccines received on October 11 and 29.

The batches of the vaccine destroyed got expired in November. They were destroyed at the Gosa dumping site, about 2km away from the Idu Railway Station in Abuja.

According to the Director-General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, the decision to destroy the vaccines followed several testing processes that were conducted. She said it became necessary to destroy them to protect Nigerians from being harmed.

On his part, the Executive Secretary of NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib, said the vaccines came with a short life span, some as short as two weeks to expiration. He described the situation as unfortunate.

He said while Nigeria appreciates the gesture of the donors, it was not in the interest of the country that vaccines with a short lifespan are sent to it through the Federal Government saved about $40 million from the various vaccine donations received.

Shuaib further disclosed that only about 10 million Nigerians have been vaccinated against COVID-19. He, however, expressed optimism that Nigeria will be able to meet its target of vaccinating 110 million Nigerians.

“A few months ago, when these vaccines were offered to us, we knew that they had a short shelf life, but we are living in an environment that supply of COVID-19 vaccines was very scarce. They are not available due to ‘vaccine nationalism’. We had developed countries that procured this vaccine and hoarded them in their stores and at the point, they were about to expire, they offered them for donations. But because we wanted to satisfy and protect Nigerians, we offered to accept these vaccines, worked collaboratively with NAFDAC to ensure that the agency tested and made sure that these vaccines were in good condition and we rolled out under very difficult circumstances to ensure Nigerians have access to vaccines.”

MEANWHILE, the World Health Organisation (WHO), yesterday, criticised blanket vaccine booster programmes while poor countries struggle to obtain initial doses, warning that the unequal access to immunisations could lead to more mutated variants that drag out the pandemic.

“Blanket booster programmes are likely to prolong the pandemic, rather than ending it, by diverting supply to countries that already have high levels of vaccination coverage, giving the virus more opportunity to spread and mutate,” WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said during a press briefing.

The comments came as health officials in the United States (U.S.) promoted vaccine booster shots for all residents over the age of 16 while Israel on Tuesday announced it would offer a fourth dose of the vaccine to people older than 60.

Currently, the vast majority of COVID-19 hospitalisations and deaths are among unvaccinated people and vaccinated people without booster shots, according to Tedros. “No country can boost its way out of the pandemic,” Tedros added.

Global health experts say the emergence of omicron was tied to vaccine inequality. Omicron is thought to have emerged from an HIV patient in South Africa where just 26 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated.

“Only half of the WHO member states have vaccinated at least 40 per cent of their populations by the end of this year because of distortions in global supply,” Tedros said.

THE need for a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine to ensure protection against Omicron variant has raised concerns since the country does not have enough vaccines and depends on Western countries for the few available. The concerns were heightened, yesterday, as a government panel of experts in Israel recommended the fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine for all people aged over 60 and healthcare workers.

Governments are also ramping up their COVID booster vaccination programmes after researchers said the additional shot could provide around 85 per cent protection against severe illness.

The situation has raised lots of questions: Can Nigeria afford to give the fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine considering that most of the vaccines the country has were donated and that has implications with regards to sourcing for more?

A virologist and Chairman, Expert Review Committee on COVID-19, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, told The Guardian yesterday: “Are we talking of fourth wave or fourth dose? We have not even completed the first vaccine dose for those eligible. We have absolutely no control over what vaccine doses we give, as we have no control over what we receive and when we receive. We have no access, how can we be talking of affordability? We remain vulnerable to possible massive fourth and more waves caused by emerging variants of concern.”

On whether a fourth dose or booster doses could be easy to come by, Tomori, who is also the pioneer Vice-Chancellor of Redeemer’s University, Osun State, said: “The thought is one thing, the reality of our perpetual dependence on the donated vaccine is in our hand to confirm, whether for a very long term or forever.

A specialist in Internal Medicine at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital (ATBUTH), Bauchi, and President, National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Dr. Dare Godiya Ishaya, told The Guardian: “It is not the fourth dose, it is a third dose booster shot that is currently been advocated. Why is the third dose booster shot been advocated? It was found that six months after the second dose, immunity begins to wane, so, Israel and other countries started administering it. Nigeria started advocating for the third dose booster with the advent of the Omicron variant and President Muhammadu Buhari has got his third dose.”

Ishaya said the WHO is currently not advocating the third dose because of low vaccination coverage in low and middle-income countries except in those with comorbidities and depressed immunity.

On Nigeria’s ability to get vaccines, Ishaya said with the COVAX Programme of WHO, a lot of low and middle-income countries have got enough vaccines.

Additionally, he said Nigeria has also budgeted billions for COVID-19 vaccines and presently the country has enough vaccines in stock.

A professor of Veterinary Medicine and Clinical Virology at the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike, Abia State, Maduike Ezeibe, told The Guardian: “The world is in trouble, not only Nigeria or Africa. The problem is the belief that some people know everything while others know nothing. The only problem peculiar to us is our tendency to think that our scientists are inferior. From the address of the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, on Monday, things appear to be changing.”

Ezeibe said the vaccines protect for only three months, no country can achieve 100 per cent vaccination of her population in three months, yet those vaccinated would need revaccination every three months. He said the virus affects many animal species and the vaccines that have short protection cannot work for the control of such pandemic.

The clinical virologist said having people with low antibody levels is the reason for the rapid mutation to new variants because the virus survives the low antibody levels and naturally changes to forms the antibodies (the vaccines) can no longer inhibit.

Ezeibe said the alternative approach would have been to attempt eradicating the virus with the short-acting vaccines and that would require vaccinating all human beings and all animals the virus could infect within the three months protection period so that by the time the vaccinated hosts are due for infection, the virus would not be available anywhere in the world to infect anybody or any animal. He, however, said this is not possible and the proper approach is what Nigeria has started- to find a drug that can give a quick cure so that whoever is infected is quickly treated.

The WHO has alerted countries that increased social gathering during the Yuletide might lead to increased Omicron cases that could overwhelm health systems and cause more deaths.

Ghebreyesus expressed sadness that more than 3.3 million people had lost their lives to COVID-19 this year, more deaths than from HIV, malaria and tuberculosis combined in 2020.

“And still, COVID-19 continues to claim around 50,000 lives every week. That’s not to mention the unreported deaths and the millions of excess deaths caused by disruptions to essential health services,” he said.

The WHO chief added that Africa was facing a steep wave of infections, driven largely by the Omicron variant. He cautioned that increased social mixing over the holiday period in many countries could lead to increased cases, overwhelmed health systems and more deaths.