© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
COVID-19: When will coronavirus vaccine hit the streets?
NIGERIA was put on the spotlight on Thursday when the Federal Ministry of Health confirmed the country’s first case of COVID-19 aka coronavirus rekindling fears of a possible outbreak in the country.
World Health Organisation, WHO has descrived Coronavirus as having a “pandemic potential”.
Tedros Ghebreyesus, Head of the WHO in a statement, warned that the impact of the disease would hit Africa badly because of its “fragile health systems” considering the nature of the threat posed by the virus.
“We must focus on containment while doing everything we can to prepare for a potential pandemic. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Every country must make its own risk assessment for its own context,” he said.
Coronavirus is estimated to have killed at least 2,800 people worldwide, while there are over 83,000 people infected in every continent except Antarctica.
Biotech company Moderna Therapeutics based in the US in partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIAID, and National Institutes of Health, NIH, is set to deliver the first vials of its COVID-19 vaccine which will be ready for human testing in April.
It was created 42 days after the genetic sequence of the coronavirus codenamed COVID – 19 was released by Chinese researchers.
The vaccine named COVID-19 vaccine was developed within a short time frame because it’s based on a relatively new genetic method that does not require growing huge amounts of the virus, according to a report.
It is expected that the vaccine would be coded with coronavirus nodes which when injected into the body will boost the immune cells to recognise and mark every coronavirus strand in the body for destruction.
Stephen Hoge, president of Moderna Therapeutics, described the vaccine as software that stimulates the immune system to generate a response.
“Our vaccine is like the software program to the body, which then goes and makes the [viral] proteins that can generate an immune response,” he said.
Scientists working with NIH had also begun testing an antiviral drug named Remdesivir initially created for Ebola, on a patient infected with the coronavirus. The test trial for the drug will involve people diagnosed with the virus and other volunteers.
The drug had displayed favourable results among animals infected with two related coronaviruses, one responsible for the severe acute respiratory syndrome, SARS, and another for causing Middle East respiratory syndrome, MERS.
Volunteers will randomly receive either the drug or a placebo intravenously for 10 days, and their blood tests, nose and throat swabs taken every two days to track the amount of virus in their bodies. Though, the drug shows some efficacy in keeping blood levels of SARS-CoV-2 from growing, it could help to contain the spread of the infection.
However, the strategy employed by African countries in the face of the coronavirus outbreak is tailored towards limiting human-to-human transmission, building capacity to isolate and provide appropriate treatment to infected people according to a WHO report.
The global health body, WHO, prioritised support for 13 African countries on the basis of their close transport links with China namely Algeria, Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.
South Africa’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases and Senegal’s Institut Pasteur were initially the only referral laboratories in Africa, that were responsible for testing samples from other African countries.
As of February 4, Ghana, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria were confirmed capable of carrying out tests for COVID – 19 alongside 11 0ther countries on the continent.
Michel Yao, WHO Africa programme manager for emergency operations said most African countries have isolation mechanisms in place due to the outbreak of Ebola.
“Thanks to Ebola, most African countries have isolation infrastructure. We are pushing for the continent to be very vigilant”, he said.