The director general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Ifedayo Adetifa, has advised Nigerians to dismiss what he described as speculations that vaccines have no effect on the new SARS-CoV2 variant which has been named Omicron.
He said vaccination remains “a very powerful tool to prevent transmission of the disease and death caused by this virus.”
Mr Adetifa, who spoke on Channel’s “Sunrise Daily” programme on Wednesday, said NCDC believes that even if the Omicron variant has any impact on vaccination, “it cannot be equal to full abrogation”.
“So theoretically speaking, if the vaccine was 90 per cent protective against severe disease and deaths from the Delta variant, it may become 80 per cent protective from the Omicron variant. So while we work out what kind of impact it will have on vaccine protective effect, the point remains that vaccines are effective, safe and they confer protection,” Mr Adetifa said.
What is known
According to the director general, the centre, like other scientists across the world, does not know how dangerous the variant is, noting that investigations are still ongoing.
He said; “There are mutations that have been seen in the spike proteins that theoretically may confirm risk of increased transmissibility, may cause more severe disease or reduced protections from existing vaccines but the reality is that we don’t know.
“What we know is that the cases currently affected by this variant have been mostly asymptomatic, they have been mostly young, and there have been no deaths. So we are still watching, we need more time to see what happens when it affects slightly different pockets of the population like the susceptible or the elderly. But for now, we don’t know much.
“What we know is that current public health safety measures and vaccination confer protection. It might not be 100 per cent but the protection they offer is useful and beneficial and people should adhere to those measures and make use of every opportunity that is currently provided especially in Nigeria to receive their vaccines..”
‘A more dangerous variant may emerge’
Mr Adetifa warned Nigerians of possible emergence of a more dangerous variant, and advised them to remain cautious by observing all non-pharmaceutical measures to ward off the danger.
He said the consequences may be bad if they throw caution to the wind.
He said the emergence of the Omicron variant is a reminder that the battle is not over, that there is still a risk.
Mr Adetifa added; “The fact that we thankfully have not seen many severe cases and deaths does not mean that we are not getting infections and does not mean that the virus has not been transmitted. What happens is that if we have unmitigated transmission of virus within the population, you will always have a chance that a variant that may be more dangerous than the predecessor or even change the pattern of disease for us, may emerge.
“This is why we are calling on people to return and adhere to safety measures that are in place. And of course, vaccination, which is very important.”
The NCDC boss also explained that there is nothing strange about the mutation of the Omicron variant, saying all viruses mutate.
“Viruses mutate at different frequencies depending on what type of virus it is. What is new is the pathogen SARS-CoV2 which we call RNA virus. Most RNA viruses have frequent mutations. It means that in the cause of multiplying, their errors are made in every circle in their genetic code.
“While humans and some other viruses have corrective mechanisms, a lot of viruses especially the RNA virus do not have corrective mechanisms. So errors are carried on to the next generation but just a few are able to survive and go ahead to cause diseases,” Mr Adetifa said.
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