The Nigeria Infectious Diseases Society has described vaccination as a most effective way to prevent infectious diseases like COVID-19.
The President of NIDS, Prof. Dimie Ogoina, said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Wednesday in Abuja, allaying fears about the coronavirus vaccines.
NAN reports that NIDS is a multidisciplinary professional society of clinicians, researchers, scientists and other stakeholders actively involved in the prevention and control of infectious diseases in Nigeria.
Considering the challenge of vaccine hesitancy, Ogoina explained that vaccination was one of the most effective public health interventions for disease prevention.
He assured that the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine was safe and efficacious.
He said: “The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine was developed after a rigorous process of research and clinical trials and confirmed to be safe and effective in preventing symptomatic disease, reducing hospitalisation and death from COVID-19.
“Given its safety and benefits, the AstraZeneca vaccine has been issued emergency use authorisation by the WHO and several other regulatory agencies across the globe, including the regulatory agency of Nigeria.
“Since the issuance of such authorisations, well above 100 countries have begun using this vaccine, with over 40 million people vaccinated globally, including about one million people in Nigeria, already.”
Ogoina, however, said since the commencement of vaccination in Nigeria, myths, misconceptions and panic, with attendant vaccine hesitancy among the public and healthcare workers began to spread.
The president denounced the rumour that the AstraZeneca vaccine could alter human DNA and contained a “bug” or “Chip” intended to subdue or control human population.
He said: “Scientific and field observation research have shown no evidence to suggest that any COVID-19 vaccine, including AstraZeneca vaccine, alters the DNA of humans.
“Or has also not been proven to contain any bug or chip of any form that is intended to control or subdue human populations.
“Despite the safety and effectiveness of AstraZeneca vaccine, it may be associated with some minor side effects and very rare adverse events.
“No effective medicine or vaccine is without risk.”
Ogoina explained that common side effects like pain and tenderness around the injection site, fever, feeling unwell and joint pain could be experienced immediately after receiving the vaccine.
He added: “These represent the normal body response to the vaccine and often resolve completely after a few days.
“Very rarely, some persons may develop severe allergic reactions after vaccination, and this is not restricted to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.”
Ogoina said based on reports mainly from European countries where over 37 million people have so far received the AstraZeneca vaccine, about 221 cases and 18 deaths were attributable to a rare blood clot that occurred within two weeks after vaccination.
He said: “This represents a risk of four cases of blood clot for every one million people vaccinated.
“The European Medicine Agency and the WHO have maintained that despite these rare adverse events of blood clotting, the benefit of the AstraZeneca far outweighs the risk associated with the disease.
“Over one million people vaccinated in Nigeria so far, there are no confirmed reports of any adverse events of concern or incidences of blood clots among vaccinated persons.”
Ogoina, however, said there were reports of self-limiting side effects among vaccinated Nigerians, adding that it was not unusual.
The NDIS president further assured that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine remained safe for the Nigerian population.
“Scientific evidence suggests that effective COVID-19 vaccination remains the best strategy to mitigate the impact and stop the spread of the pandemic globally, and in Nigeria,” he said.
Ogoina called on the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency and related health institutions in the country to strengthen surveillance for vaccine-related adverse events of concern, such as blood clots.
He noted that there was an urgent need to build capacity and provide resources to enable early detection, diagnosis, and management of vaccine-related adverse events, including blood clots.
He said: “There is need to intensify awareness among the general public, and build confidence among healthcare workers about the safety and benefit of the AstraZeneca and other COVID-19 vaccines that will be used in Nigeria in the future.
“Since current evidence suggest that COVID-19 vaccines protect against symptomatic disease but does not completely stop transmission of the virus, the NIDS recommends that all Nigerian citizens, including those who have received COVID-19 vaccines, should continue to observe non-pharmaceutical safety protocol.
“They should not stop the practice of social distancing, appropriate use of face masks and hand hygiene, among other measures.”