Has Nigeria developed a vaccine against COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus?
News of this potentially significant development was widely shared on social media in late June 2020. There was also a flurry of local headlines. spread it, With some international media participating.
“Progress as Nigerian scientists reveal the Covid-19 vaccine” said the headline from nigeria Leadership newspaper.
the guardian It was with “Scientists from Nigerian universities discover vaccine for Covid-19”.
Has been some dismay At home, Africa’s largest economy has shrunk to a bystander in the global search for ways to counter the pandemic.
Have these Nigerian researchers beaten others in search of a vaccine?
Possible ‘candidate’ vaccine, not vaccine, discovered
The story comes from a press conference called on June 19 by a group of scientists based at Nigerian universities. It was widely reported that they said they had discovered a vaccine.
A vaccine is a biological preparation that helps the body’s immune system. recognize and fight Virus and bacteria.
Research team leader Dr. Oladipo Kolawole from Adeleke University In Osun state, the vaccine reportedly, while developed in Africa for Africa, would work anywhere.
While news headlines showed the discovery of a functional vaccine, the articles themselves suggested that it was still in progress.
So we asked Kolawole what exactly his team had done.
“We refer to the news as a possible vaccine candidate, not a vaccine. Those who referred to it as a vaccine decided to do what they wanted to do, “he told us.
The researchers focused on the African data.
Kolawole, specialist in medical virology, immunology and bioinformaticsHe said the group had scoured the SARS-CoV-2 genome from African countries to select the best possible vaccine.
SARS-CoV-2, or “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2”, is the technical name for the virus that causes Covid-19.
In March 2020, Nigeria Center for Disease Control announced that local investigators had sequenced the genome of the coronavirus strain in the first confirmed case in the country. They found that it matched the virus circulating in Italy and Wuhan, China, the health agency said, adding that this was the first time the virus had been sequenced in Africa.
Sequence refers to investigating the genetic makeup of an organism.
‘Rushed’ press conference – virology expert
Kolawole was also reported to have said it would take a minimum of 18 months before the vaccine could be released to the public.
He told Africa Check that “[the potential vaccine] it has to undergo many test trials before it can finally be concluded that it is a vaccine. A lot of testing must be done on animals, humans and the approval of the authorities. ”
Professor of virology and former president of the Nigerian Academy of SciencesOyewale Tomori told Africa Check that investigators may have been too hasty to call the press conference as it could lead to the spread of misinformation.
“It is not correct to say that we have found a vaccine, but it should be called a candidate vaccine. Saying that we have found a vaccine means that you have tried it and confirmed that it is good. If you called it a candidate vaccine, that would have been correct, ”said Tomori.
‘Not aware’ authorities
The Nigerian Disease Control Center told Africa Check that it had not received an official notice of a locally produced vaccine.
“Scientific innovations are best advertised through peer-reviewed scientific publications in accredited journals, not through non-validated press releases,” said Chinwe Ochu, the agency’s head of prevention and knowledge management programs.
“As much as NCDC is happy to receive health innovations to support the public health response, such products must follow standard scientific screening and validation protocols to ensure they are effective and safe.”
|The way to a vaccine
What obstacles does a vaccine encounter before it is ready to use? According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exist six basic stages in the development of a vaccine, from the clinical and exploratory development stages to regulatory approval and manufacturing.
As of June 23, 2020, more than 8.9 million cases of Covid-19 had been confirmed worldwide. More than 469,000 people died from the disease. Nigeria had finished 20,000 confirmed cases, while more than 500 people had died since the first the case was reported February 27.
While many potential vaccines were being developed, an operational vaccine for Covid-19 was not yet available, according to the World Health Organization.
According to an update from june 22 by the global health agency, there were 13 different candidate vaccines in clinical evaluation, which is a triphasic process. There were another 129 candidate vaccines worldwide in the preclinical evaluation stage. No Nigerian vaccine was included in the update.
Conclusion: There is still a long way to go for Nigeria in search of the Covid-19 vaccine
Several media publications reported in late June 2020 that Nigerian scientists had presented a vaccine for the new coronavirus.
But investigators said what they had was a possible vaccine candidate, and it would be months before it could be said to be effective. The country’s NCDC also said it is not yet aware of a functional vaccine.
If confirmed as a candidate, he would join the ranks of dozens of others who are in various stages of development.
– Additional reports from Motunrayo Joel
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