The third wave of COVID-19 appears to be stabilising in Africa, says Walter Kazadi Mulombo, WHO Representative to Nigeria.
Mr Mulombo, who stated this at a National Vaccines’ briefing on Tuesday in Abuja, however, added that the number of new cases was still very high, with almost 248, 000 reported in the past week.
He said that the trend on the continent was that each new wave struck ‘Africa faster and harder, reaching a higher number of new cases, more rapidly than the previous wave’.
“This puts an increasing strain on already stretched health facilities and health workers.
“The good news is that, increasing vaccine supplies raises hope that the continent will meet the target of vaccinating 10 per cent of the population by the end of September,” he said.
He noted that equitable access to safe and effective vaccines was critical to ending the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that it was hugely encouraging to see vaccines listed for emergency use by WHO, being available for use in Nigeria.
“However, to understand the recent upward trend that Nigeria is experiencing, we must remind ourselves that: weak observance of preventive measures, increased population movement and interaction have heightened the risk of COVID-19 resurgence in many states.
“These factors can contribute to increased case numbers. This ebb and flow in the pandemic’s transmission dynamics is expected and is likely to continue, until a sizeable proportion of the Nigerian population is vaccinated.
“We have also been asked, at what point would WHO reconsider its position on booster doses.
”The answer is, first, WHO is looking carefully at the outcome, which is of most relevance from a public health perspective, that is the severe disease, hospitalisation and death outcomes.
“The second consideration is the consistency of the findings. Acting on a single study is just not a sound policy basis. So, we are including the entirety of the evidence.
“The third consideration is around the issue of the risk groups. Recommendations around the use of booster doses will very much be tailored to risk groups which may experience some change in the performance of the vaccines over a period,” he added.
The WHO representative said it was important to look at future scenarios, and “Nigerians must continue to do everything possible to protect themselves now.”
“Therefore, WHO continues to recommend a strong public health response, and for individuals to continue to protect themselves by getting vaccinated, maintaining a physical distance, wearing a mask, avoiding poorly ventilated spaces, cleaning hands and following respiratory hygiene,” he explained.
He added that journalists were critical in amplifying these messages.
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