Experts have advised Nigerians to continue to get vaccinated against COVID-19 amid increasing cases and deaths from the virus in the last few weeks.
The advice comes following complaints from members of the public that people are getting infected and dying from COVID-19 complications despite getting vaccinated.
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However, experts said that the fatality would have been higher if not for the medical breakthrough in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.
They also advocated for the booster shots to be taken by those who have been vaccinated to strengthen their immunity.
Daily Trust reports that millions of Nigerians are apprehensive about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine as evident in the fact that only 3.8 per cent of eligible citizens have been vaccinated so far.
Spike in COVID-19 cases, deaths
Data obtained from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) showed that between Friday, December 24 and Sunday, December 26, Nigeria recorded a total of 29 deaths from COVID-19.
Between Friday and Saturday, 21 people died from the disease while an additional eight people were killed by the virus on Sunday.
The NCDC data also revealed that Nigeria recorded 1, 547 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday.
The country has so far recorded 237, 561 confirmed cases of the virus since the beginning of the pandemic in the country. 212, 550 of the cases have been discharged while 3, 022 deaths have been recorded so far.
Justifying why people should be vaccinated, the experts who spoke to this newspaper said immunity against COVID-19 doesn’t happen instantly. Prof. Oyewale Tomori, a renowned virologist and past president of the Nigerian Academy of Science, said that although vaccination cannot be forced on people, there is the need to increase education about the importance of the vaccination to the masses.
He said while vaccination provides protection against the virus, exposing oneself to it may not stop infection despite being vaccinated.
He, however, added that those who have not been vaccinated and exposed to the virus could die from the disease while those vaccinated and exposed to it might not.
He said, “The role of the vaccine is to protect you if you have the infection. The vaccine is not going to stop your exposure. The vaccine is internal while the exposure is external.
“After taking the vaccine, if I roam around without a mask, I can get exposed to someone who has it as well as get infected. Those who are not vaccinated and are exposed can die as a result of the infection whereas those who are vaccinated cannot die despite the exposure,” he said.
On people who died despite taking the vaccine, the virologist said: “It is not the day that you get vaccinated that your immunity develops. It takes time. In many instances, it takes 10 days before the immune system can become strong since it is a body reaction.
“Within those 10 days, if someone gets exposed, that person will become infected and can die. So, when people are saying despite taking vaccines, people still die, we need to know when the person took the vaccine and when the person got exposed…
“The immunity does not develop immediately, so, people ought not to go to their workplace until their immunity has been built against COVID-19.”
Fatality could have been higher without vaccination-Epidemiologist
An Epidemiologist with the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET), Dr Muhammad Shakir Balogun, said Nigerians should not be discouraged from being vaccinated simply because some people are dying.
He said that the vaccine has shown to be protective as fewer people are dying of COVID-19 due to the protection of the vaccine.
“For instance, if 100 people that are not vaccinated and get infected with COVID-19 die, less than 10 of them will die if they are vaccinated and get infected. This means that a large number of people that have been vaccinated are protected from dying from COVID-19. This is the major advantage of getting vaccinated.
“Vaccination is very important, though the virus keeps mutating and we don’t know what mutation may happen next but even with Omicron, it has been shown that people who have been vaccinated have better outcomes. The rate of getting hospitalised due to COVID-19 has reduced by 70 per cent with Omicron; but without vaccination, a larger number of people would have died.”
Vaccination reduces severity of cases – NMA
The Chairman, Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Edo State chapter, Dr Harrison Omokhua, also advised Nigerians to continue to take the COVID-19 vaccines saying it helps in reducing severity and deaths when one contracts the disease.
“The vaccine is what the medical world has made to reduce the effect of the virus on the people. Right from the beginning, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned on the precautionary measures people could imbibe to prevent COVID-19, and vaccination is to reduce the severity of the virus when one gets infected”, he said.
He also advised Nigerians to stop discrediting COVID-19 vaccines and opposing their use, saying vaccination against the virus has a lot of benefits.
WHO said the vaccines train the immune system to create antibodies, just as it does when it is exposed to a disease. However, because vaccines contain only killed or weakened forms of germs like viruses or bacteria, they do not cause the disease or put you at risk of its complications. Most vaccines are given by injection, but some are given orally (by mouth) or sprayed into the nose.
Also, the federal government while approving the administration of booster doses for persons that have completed two doses of AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer Bio-N-Tech or on the dose of Johnson & Johnson recently said a COVID-19 booster dose gives greater protection against the virus.
According to the Centres for Disease Control (CDC), the COVID-19 vaccine protects people from five years and above from getting infected and severely ill and significantly reduces the likelihood of hospitalisation and death.
It said getting vaccinated is the best way to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to prevent infection by Delta or other variants.
“A vaccine breakthrough infection happens when a fully vaccinated person gets infected with COVID-19. People with vaccine breakthrough infections may spread COVID-19 to others.
“Even if you are fully vaccinated, if you live in an area with substantial or high transmission of COVID-19, you – as well as your family and community – will be better protected if you wear a mask when you are in indoor public places.
“People who are immunocompromised may not always build adequate levels of protection after an initial 2-dose primary mRNA COVID-19 vaccine series. They should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people until advised otherwise by their healthcare professional. Further, CDC recommends that moderately or severely immunocompromised people receive an additional primary dose of vaccine,” the organisation said.
Experts have also hailed the fast development of the COVID-19 vaccines as against the time it took to develop vaccines for other diseases such as malaria, meningitis, and cholera among others.
Making a vaccine can take up to 10-15 years because of the complexity of its development, but the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic coupled with studies on previous coronavirus as well as worldwide collaboration between scientists and governments helped in the development.
They enjoined Nigerians to avail themselves of the benefits it offers by getting themselves vaccinated.
By Ojoma Akor (Abuja), Christiana T. Alabi, Risikat Ramoni (Lagos) & Usman A. Bello (Benin)