By Ayo Kehinde
A Consultant Public Health Physician, Dr Adegboyega Oyefabi, has identified ways through which COVID-19 infections can be reduced to its barest minimum, if not eradicated in the country.
The first is for community and religious leaders to partner with stakeholders and disseminate correct information about COVID-19 vaccination in Nigeria. The second way is the need for health education and community mobilisation for the acceptance and use of the COVID-19 vaccination by the populace.
Oyefabi, who is also the Team Lead, Infectious Disease Control Centres, Kaduna, gave the advice in an interview with the journalists on Sunday in Lagos.
Oyefabi, who works at the Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital, Kaduna, said: “This is how we defeated polio. This is how we are going to defeat COVID-19.
“When a good number of us are vaccinated we develop herd, community or population immunity, which is capable of controlling the disease by reducing its prevalence to a level that is below public health importance.”
Oyefabi described vaccines as the most cost effective public health strategy to combat disease of public health emergency of international concern like the COVID- 19 pandemic.
He said most of the available COVID-19 vaccines confer immunity for one or two years, adding that vaccines for different diseases confers immunity for different numbers of years or months.
“The available COVID-19 vaccine now in Nigeria will be taken in two doses. And, we may have to take the vaccine annually or as we get further directives from the National Primary Health Care Development Agency,” the expert said.
Oyefabi maintained that what was important on the demand side was vaccine acceptance, while the policy makers and public health stakeholders would work on vaccine availability.
According to him, Nigeria has just received 3.92 million doses of the Astrazenica vaccine from the Covax facility, a coalition comprising the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, CEPI _ Coalition for Epidemic preparedness and Innovation.
“We need to thank God for this great public health feat in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which had terribly affected the health and economy of many high and low income countries.
“Vaccine is the most cost effective public health strategy to combat disease of public health emergency of international concern like the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is because of its ability to confer immunity by synthesising the body system to fight a future infection.
“Before this time, we have passed through several attempts at controlling the spread of the infection.
“We have used primordial preventive measures like lockdowns, primary prevention like risk communications and community engagement to create awareness, improve knowledge and promote behavioural change,” Oyefabi said.
He said that these were achieved through the use of Non-pharmacological Interventions (NPI) such as appropriate use of face masks, social or physical distancing, frequent hand wash.
Oyefabi listed others to include avoidance of large crowd, respiratory hygiene and good nutrition as effective strategies to curtail the spread of the disease.
“We have also employed secondary preventive approaches via early identification of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the community via active case search.
“And also by our target and community screening for the disease and of course use of some medications as supportive therapies for the confirmed cases.
“The tertiary preventive measures involved the management of the severe and critical cases. This group of patients classified as critical COVID-19 cases are very few in Nigeria, but the mortality is very high,” he said.
The public health expert noted that in spite of these laudable approaches, the world had first and second waves of the disease with varied health and socioeconomic consequences in different nations.
He added that the vaccine would help a lot, especially if combined with some of the public health measures highlighted.
Nigeria had on March 2 received 3.9 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine through the COVAX facility to inoculate its citizens against COVID-19 infection.