Friday Olokor, Dayo Ojerinde and Wale Oyewale
Virologists and other medical experts have warned that 100,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine the country is expecting may become useless, if proper arrangements are not made for their transportation and storage.
The experts, including the Chief Executive Officer of the Institute of Human Virology, Nigeria, Dr Patrick Dakum; a medical virologist, Dr Oladipo Kolawole, and a professor of Virology at the University of Ibadan, David Olaleye, in separate interviews with The PUNCH, advised government to ensure proper storage and transportation of the vaccine to achieve its desired result.
The Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Prof Babatunde Salako, had in an interview with Sunday PUNCH on Saturday, said there was no enough space to store the vaccine at the moment.
He also said another major challenge would be how to transport the vaccine at the temperature of -70 degree centigrade to rural areas.
According to him, in future Nigeria may need to buy other types of vaccines that do not require low temperature as Pfizer.
Recall that the Federal Government had two weeks ago said it was expecting 100,000 doses of Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine before the end of the month.
The Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Faisal Shuaib, who disclosed this during a press conference of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, said the country would later in the year receive 42 million free doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria, Dakum; in an interview with one of our correspondents on Sunday, said the shipping and storage condition of Pfizer vaccine needed -70 degrees Centigrade.
According to him, there must be constant power supply at the storage facilities.
He, therefore, warned that the vaccine would be useless if these conditions were not met.
COVID-19 vaccine will be useless if cold chain is compromised – CEO, Human virology institute
Dakum said, “Nigeria must conclude a vaccination plan and have fridges on site. There’s need for -70 freezers for storage before commencement of vaccination.
“A robust plan is needed including power back up plans at each of the vaccine storage and vaccination site. If the cold chain is compromised, the vaccine can become useless.”
COVID-19 vaccine won’t be effective in Nigeria if storage is comprised – Virologist
A medical virologist at Adeleke University, Ede, Osun State, Dr. Oladipo Kolawole, also told The PUNCH that the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine could not be guaranteed without proper storage.
He also stressed the need for the federal and state governments to sensitise Nigerians to the need to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
Kolawole added that there was the need for the government to liaise with religious leaders to ensure their members turn up for the vaccines.
He said, “A key factor of the success of any vaccination rollout is the population’s attitude towards it. The government needs to sensitise the general population to this, give them adequate information likewise liaising with religious leaders to make sure their communities turn up to get their jabs.
“As regards the facilities or measures that must be put in place, we need good storage facilities to be in place, though Pfizer has developed cutting-edge packaging and storage solutions to meet the needs of the varied locations that will be distributing the vaccine – whether they are in major cities or rural towns.
“This statement was made by Pfizer Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Albert Bourla, as regards what they have developed to meet the challenges of storage.
The expert added that there was a need to store the vaccines properly to achieve the needed result.
He stated, “Vaccines must be stored properly from the time they are manufactured until they are administered. Proper maintenance of vaccines during transport is known as the cold chain. A proper cold chain is a temperature-controlled supply chain that includes all equipment and procedures used in the transport and storage and handling of vaccines from the time of manufacturer to administration of the vaccine.
“Vaccine effectiveness cannot be guaranteed unless the vaccine has been stored correctly. The main effect is that of the effectiveness and possibly some other health side effects.”
Expired vaccine will give false protection against COVID-19, it’s dangerous – Expert
On his part, a professor of Virology, Department of Virology, University of Ibadan, Prof. David Olaleye, stressed the need for the Federal Government to consider storage facilities as key before determining the type of vaccine to be imported.
This, he stated, would guard against the effect of dispensing expired vaccine to the citizens.
Although he said that ingesting an expired vaccine did not have any direct health implication, the danger was in assuming wrongly that one had been vaccinated.
Olaleye said, “If the vaccine is degraded, it will not work. That is simple and that is for vaccines. For drugs, it is completely different and that is not what we are discussing at the moment. It may be poisonous or toxic for drugs, but for vaccines, most of the times, it may just not work.
“It means one has been given a false protection and it is very dangerous because one would be assuming wrongly. It is dangerous for someone to think he or she had been protected while still remaining unprotected.
On the resumption of schools despite the increasing wave of infection and growing death, he said, “I said it before that it is a matter of a balance. It is a matter of a very delicate balance between what we have to do and the unfortunate situation of the pandemic. One basic fact is that this virus is not going to disappear overnight. The increasing rate of infection is an indication that this virus is widely adapted to human infection. Another fact is that respiratory viruses are very difficult to control because of the mode of spread.”
But the President, Nigerian Academy of Science, Prof. Motso Onuoha, advised Nigerians not to worry about the storage of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Onuoha, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said an existing cold chain system would take care of the storage of the vaccine.
Efforts to get the reaction of the NPHCDA Executive Director, Shuaibu, to the statements of the experts did not succeed as he did not pick calls to his phone neither did he respond to a text sent to the phone.