A neuroscientist, Dr. Chidi Njemanze, says majority of Nigerians have developed strong immunity against COVID-19 and might not need the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines expected in the country by the end of the month.
Speaking with PUNCH HealthWise, the renowned medical researcher in neurocardiology said the drug Ivermectin (Mectizan), used to treat River Blindness (onchocerciasis), and which most Nigerians have consumed at some point, has stimulated their immune system to resist parasites and viruses of the RNA group, to which COVID-19 belongs. “They want to make Nigerians who already have immunity to coronavirus to take a vaccine that might not work on them. “Ivermectin was distributed across the country, and, coincidentally, it stimulates the immune system to resist parasites and viruses of the RNA group
“Many Nigerians have taken this drug, and, invariably, are resistant to COVID-19. The immune system is already primed to resist the virus,” Njemanze deposed. According to an Assistant Researcher, Prof. Carlos Chaccour, in a report published by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, Ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug developed in the 1970s, had proven to inhibit the replication of several RNA, including SARS-CoV-2
Chaccour, however, said there is equipoise on it, a term used in bioethics to define a situation in which there is reasonable doubt of whether a drug might be of use or not.
In a study led by the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute in Australia, which was published on April 3, 2020 in ScienceDaily, Ivermectin was noted to have killed COVID-19 virus within 48 hours.
The scientific team found that a single dose of the drug could stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus growing in cell culture.
“The next steps are to determine the correct human dosage — ensuring the doses shown to effectively treat the virus in vitro are safe for humans,” the researchers stated.
Further speaking on the expected vaccines, Njemanze said procuring them would be wasteful, adding that spending N124bn on a virus that has continued to mutate into more variants, when the national health budget is N46bn, doesn’t show strategic planning. “This particular strategy of procuring a vaccine, which is being developed abroad and is being adopted by the Nigerian authority, is not applicable here and is wrong. “The amount earmarked for the vaccine is 10 times our national budget. This is outside the infrastructure that you need to store and administer it,” the neuroscientist said.
He further noted that the vaccine will not serve any purpose, especially now that a new variant, which is being imported into the country, is in circulation.
He said, “When you have a disease process that is caused by a virus that keeps mutating into other variants after a while, the strategy usually is to use drugs that will reduce the viral load.
“This is so that if the virus is severe and an individual gets infected, it will not bring the person down.
“When viral load is reduced, the immune system can now produce immune cells that will defend it from the virus. That is the usual strategy when treating any disease.
“The disadvantage of rushing to use a vaccine is that it will be specific to a variant. If, say, you have ‘Variant A’ and you produce a vaccine, it will be very active for only that one.
“If and when ‘Variant B’ emerges tomorrow, it will not be sensitive to that vaccine.
“So, for Nigeria to go and spend so much on one vaccine and tomorrow, another COVID-19 vaccine is developed for another variant, and maybe the first one was 90 per cent sensitive, when variant B comes, it will only be 30 or 40 per cent sensitive.
“Do they intend to get another budget to buy a new vaccine for the new variant?
“It is total stupidity for any developing country to be spending scarce resources to buy a vaccine for coronavirus”. Njemanze also warned that inoculating Nigerians with the vaccines might worsen the disease process, adding “There is what is called pathogenic priming.
“Getting the vaccine and then getting infected can make it worse. That’s a phenomenon we call pathogenic priming or antibody dependent enhancement. “It can happen here. And because this is not all understood, trying to buy into it doesn’t make sense.”
The Neuroscientist, however, said the Federal Government might justify buying a limited quantity for healthcare workers at the frontline as a form of protection.
“Maybe 10,000 or 15,000 vials for some health professionals who are at the forefront of waging war against the disease, especially those that they want to post to isolation centres,” he added. The physician described COVID-19 as a relatively mild disease in terms of modalities and effects, noting that Nigeria had experienced worse disease outbreaks and had survived with less mortality.
“What did the Federal Government do for Lassa fever and Ebola virus? Did they get any effective vaccine?
“It seems to me that decisions are being made by politicians who have no idea about what medicine is all about.
“As it stands now, politicians are the ones making these decisions and analysing solutions,” he said.
Njemanze also warned that lockdown of the country because of the second wave will be counterproductive, as the percentage of infections recorded so far doesn’t warrant such measures.
He said, “They are talking about lockdown in a country where disease prevalence is 0.000044 per cent of the population. So what is the justification? The entire strategy is a nonstarter.
“The Federal Government should be guided by our needs in this clime and not what is being monitored on global news stations.
“We are jettisoning primary things that we are supposed to do; things like getting adequate personal protective equipment and gloves for healthcare workers.
“Government couldn’t even do that. So, what other thinking are they going to come up with that will logically solve the problem?
“When you lock down Nigeria, you are actually clustering people, especially with our extended family system, where almost six to seven people live in a room due to poverty.
“Without lockdown, these people will be at their workplace, where they also sleep occasionally. So, you are actually separating people when they are working.
“Conversely, lockdown, which translates to clustering, will help to further spread the virus. This is not the same abroad because those places are a little bit different.
“Their homes are usually two to three rooms apartments, and they could be two to three people in the family, and can actually remain separated if they so desire.
“Lockdown measure is not applicable in Nigeria, because we don’t have the same social structure and system.”
Njemaze maintained that America, Britain and other foreign countries have zero experience in terms of dealing with infectious disease, and wondered why African countries are taking cues from them.
“Why are they teaching you what they have never seen before? Have they dealt with Ebola, Lassa fever and malaria outbreak before?
“Are we going to impose lockdown for Lassa fever, malaria and Ebola virus outbreak?
“You are talking to people who have no idea and who should be asking us what to do. We deal with these diseases on a daily basis and have more serious diseases than coronavirus.
“We don’t need these measures because we already have public health distribution drugs that will reduce the viral load of coronavirus and the RNA viruses.
“All the antimalarial medications and quinines we use can reduce the RNA viral load. And the public is already taking these drugs. We have the therapeutic, so we already have inherent system protection.
“The vaccines will not improve any survivability because we have already survived the virus.”
On what scientific measures could be adapted to effectively contain the second wave of COVID-19, Njemanze said the second wave was an international one, and that Nigeria is only getting a transfer of transported cases.
He, however, applauded the Federal Government’s effort at containing the new wave, adding, “They are doing well, especially by ensuring that returnees to the country are taking COVID-19 tests and policing the border. “That is the correct thing to do because we are having transported cases. We don’t have an inherent community spread of the second wave.
“Even if one or two variants are discovered in the country, they are still transported cases because they can be traced to someone that just returned to the country.
“There is really no need to change our strategy towards control of the virus. The strategy on ground, without the vaccine, is superb. We are doing well with it.”