Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Federal Government has confirmed that final laboratory exercise is being condicted by Nigerian scientists and other foreign partners on possible effective and friendly vaccine against Lassa fever.
The government also allayed fears and speculations that there were confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, officially named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO), in the country.
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, told journalists in Abuja, on Friday, that the scientists developing the Lassa fever vaccine had done first trial of the vaccine and might complete the exercise sooner than expected.
He said: “Top Nigerian scientists in Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, in Edo State, are working on a vaccine for Lassa fever in collaboration with German experts. They have conducted a first stage trial. It might take a couple of years to completely develop it because developing such a vaccine is in stages.
“However, testing its efficacy and safety requires time. It has to go through several stages of quality control before it can be deployed. However, there are lots of progress at the moment.
“Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital remains Nigeria’s centre for excellence for that kind of sickness that has to do with viral hemorrhagic infections. It’s where research and tests are being done. They have a lot of equipment, and recently, support came from Germany, Britain and American institutes.
“For now, we have five laboratories that can diagnose Lassa fever, and they are strategically located across the country. We are in the process of getting a sixth laboratory courtesy of West African Health Organization (WAHO) which will also be placed strategically so that the distance towards getting samples to laboratories is minimal.
The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, who spoke on convid ’19, explained that two cases that met the case definition for the virus were tested and found negative, while two other cases are currently undergoing a series of test.
He said: “Be rest assured that if there is a positive case, we will be the first to announce it. So, if you see something on social media saying a number of people have died of the virus in Nigeria, it is simply false information. It is not possible that it will happen because there are only three laboratories in Nigeria that run these tests.
“Once there is a positive, I as NCDC DG will be informed, and I will, in return, inform the minister who will announce it.”