COVID Vaccine – One Step Forward, Many More to Go

It is really heartening that there are several candidate vaccines which are making their way through various regulatory approvals. At the moment, there are three leading candidates, and these are from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca. From all indications, it appears the vaccine from AstraZeneca which while it has the lowest reported level of effectiveness amongst the three, it also appears to have the lowest infrastructural requirements due to its ability to be stored at room temperature. The other candidates require storage at temperatures well below zero.

While the vaccines are closer to being available, several issues need to be considered with respect to Nigeria’s ability to manage the attendant logistics:

Medical Personnel: Nigeria’s shortage of medical personnel has been well reported. Carrying out a mass vaccination exercise which will cover the entire population will further increase the pressure on medical personnel howbeit for a short period of time. Measures will need to be identified to ensure medical services do not suffer significant degradation while also fulfilling the new requirements.

Supply Chain Management: Infrastructure will need to be setup to ensure the vaccines get to every corner of the country. While this may be easily addressed for urban areas, a significant portion of the population live in rural areas. Measures will need to be put in place to ensure the vaccines can be adequately stored and secured.

Dosage Monitoring: It appears the vaccines are going to be administered in two doses over an interval. A system will need to be established to ensure the dosages taken are effectively tracked. Given that vaccination for COVID may eventually become a pre-requisite for international travel, as is being mulled by some countries, a robust electronic system may be required to ensure vaccination can be tracked effectively.

Apathy: This may be the most significant challenge to be tackled. Moving around the streets of Lagos, it will be clear to the casual observer that adherence to COVID guidelines of social distancing and mask wearing is almost non-existent. This could be attributed to the apparent relatively low morbidity and mortality being experienced in Nigeria. In this vein, it may be a significant challenge to convince people to dedicate the time and energy required to be inoculated against this disease.

The Federal Government of Nigeria needs to lead a multi-stakeholder effort to develop optimal solutions which will ensure these and other hurdles are surmounted. Latest guidance and information on Covid in Nigeria can be found here.