University College Hospital (UCH) Professor of Virology David Olaleye debunks the lies about COVID 19 vaccine affecting fertility, shortening life expectancy and other bogus unverifiable claims. In this interview, he provides insights into the complexities of vaccine development and tells why the COVID 19 vaccine marked an early entry for human vaccination.
Between the AIDS vaccines and the COVID 19 vaccines
You know, there are some basic things you must understand, the insinuation or suspicion is understandable especially as you said, we have HIV/AIDS now for over 30 years actually and medical science is still struggling with the HIV vaccine, even the treatment; the best of the treatment for HIV today which we have gone a long way from single monotherapy to two to now triple therapy, even with the triple you now have one pill a day, which is amazing how medical science have gone in terms of treatment but in terms of vaccine, yes it is been long and I would say, some people are frustrated because of the length of time but if people understand the nature; that is the biology of the two viruses, that is the HIV and the Corona SARS COV 2, you might be able to explain why it has been possible for the medical science community, particularly the NIH in the US and the other funders that supported the development of COVID 19 vaccine to come up with the vaccine so quickly.
One is that, the HIV is a virus that changes so frequently, the diversity of HIV is so wide, that coming up with a vaccine that is broadly protective is so challenging, developing a vaccine that will be broadly protective is the target.
If you look at the subtypes of HIV all around the world almost the same way within an individual, the variability; the virus gets into the system today and in 24 hours you already have very little variant because of the structure of the virus, that virulent complexity is not the same as with COVID or SARS COV 2, but apart from that, the knowledge that has been acquired over the 30 something years of HIV has been so amazing in the medical science, before HIV people talked about influenza virus, it has been so well studied over generations,
since 1918, the major pandemic, the Spanish flu, the knowledge gained over time have brought a lot of sub disciplines of biomedical science together –biochemistry, molecular biology and then virology, the available knowledge and technique together since the first outbreak of corona virus 2002/2003 has all been combined to help hasten the corona virus vaccine production. So it is not entirely correct that the corona virus vaccine was developed under one year, since 2002/2003 that the corona virus broke out in China, what we call SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), people recognise – the NIH and funders like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that this is a respiratory virus unlike HIV that spread sexually; blood transfusion and mother to child, that you can decide as an individual to avoid exposure but with respiratory viruses it is difficult, the mood of transmission in respiratory virus is difficult to control, it is a major public health challenge, so when you look at the relative risk of becoming infected with respiratory virus, it is in tens of hundredth of folds than those transmitted by sexual intercourse or blood transfusion, so before the outbreak of COVID, certain studies have been going on since the first outbreak of SARS in 2002/2003, so the technology of the mRNA vaccine the one by Pfizer and Modena has been developed years back before SARS COV 2. So, the studies have been ongoing long before now.
The urgency and mass infection of the COVID 19 virus
My submission to this is that anything that is life-threatening is considered important, but you look at the risk of exposure, the risk of becoming infected, look at the population base, in population health, which one spread faster and the control is beyond or maybe beyond one individual so efforts on funding will most likely go towards such at a higher degree.
COVID 19 vaccines, wearing masks, social distancing
One interesting aspect of science is the wide range of people looking at the same thing from different angles and they see it differently, the biggest of what is being said is perception and perception is in the mind and that becomes very difficult to manage.
The basic thing is that science is truth; it deals with facts. When people set out to conduct a study, the aim of the study is very important, it links in almost all the time with the outcome, but the truth at the end of the day is the fact of the matter, when you say 2 plus 2, it remains 4 anywhere in the world, under any condition, that is science for you. In medical science or in biological science, we know that all these things are there in nature that is why our study is different from what they do in physical science; physical science and engineering base their outcomes on principles of sciences but in medical or biological science, you are only uncovering what is already there, so your approach is very important and it will be related to your findings at the end of the day. So these so called scientists, the question is how do they design their studies?
What we know is that this virus is concentrated in saliva, and it comes out in breathe, the virus multiplies in the lining of the respiratory track, it multiplies there and it is expelled when we are talking, the force with which we speak or talk is very important because it is proportional to propelling what is released from the mouth; so when you cover your mouth, you prevent release of the things coming out to infect the next person. And that is why distance is very important, if you are not shouting; we know, it has been studied by physicists and physiologists combined that the farthest that is released from one person to the other is 3 feet, one meter and that is why it is recommended that the distancing of two meters is required when you are in a gathering, people who are in crowded places are at higher risk than people in large open area from influenza; all respiratory viruses, it is not just peculiar to the SARS COV, it is applicable to all respiratory viruses generally.
So that is the principle of covering, so you prevent as much as possible the release and the other person that is covering you prevent from inhaling, so it is known that if two people cover, the risk of infection is almost negligible, if only one person cover, the risk of being infected is about 90 something percent, if none is covered, it is 100 percent risk. And then the basic principle of hand washing; when we talk there are secretions that comes out, we have droplet particles are so small that cannot be seen with ordinary human eye, by reflexes one can easily pass on the droplets from surfaces to the face. That is why it is advisable to wash hands with soap regularly.
Fear of depopulation and infertility
You have to give those with such thinking some benefit of the doubt; the virus seemingly to them emerged from nowhere, it destabilised peoples’ plan, by the year 2020 people had plans but today millions of people are gone! It’s unbelievable! But you know whatever is been said against the virus is all fear message without scientific citation, so part of what we need to do as science community is to use education to push back against these unverified claims. We should use information, use science to educate more people. The whole world is overwhelmed, so one must back up claims with science; people need to be rightly informed.
I am a member of the Oyo state COVID 19 taskforce, at the meeting, the governor said he wants to be guided by data, and that is the way to go, we must provide data; data to show real situation. I think what we need in the science community is a lot of information and date to show proof against what the mischief makers are trying to achieve. You have to be able to develop short straightforward messages backed with scientific proves to counter fear messages. It will be helpful to engage the religious leaders also, you mentioned the claim on infertility, I can tell you that there is nothing; absolutely nothing related in any way to show that the vaccine has such component to cause infertility. It was the same as the time with the polio vaccine. But the response was engaging the traditional institution to help make people better informed. That is what we must continue to do; people will come up with all kinds of mischief and hypothesis, as scientists we need to constantly use science and information to educate the public.
Infertility, reduction of life expectancy and other claims
You know I talked about perception, I think generally they are spreading fear. But the other side of the coin is that it is mischief. It is direct deliberate mischief. You know the human mind is very strange, some do this for commercial reasons, and others do this because of the state of mind that enjoys seeing people in serious problems. You know in the early days of SARS, people said they will be picking dead bodies along the streets and all sort of things, we haven’t seen that happen and that will not happen. Some are doing this for economics, look at when the pandemic broke out, ordinary simple lab equipment jumped in price, some people don’t just care, and they are more concerned about the money they want to make. The other side is what you call the religious/political aspect. I am not a politician but as political scientists will tell you that all man belongs to that political classification, there is a strong divide and differences politically so you must see all kinds of people coming with different unfounded claims. The religious aspect is the one I consider very important, like I said we need to seriously and massively educate the men of God, the pastors, the Muslim cleric and other faith leaders. So it is a combination of factors; ignorance and mischief.
The variance of the COVID-19 virus in the UK, South Africa
One thing I want people to understand is that viruses will always mutate, it is the nature of the organism. Viruses don’t have the sub-units that are required to build structure, it is taken from the host cell…sometime the change is a result of the immune pressure of the host, some other viruses are because of their structure like the influenza virus assortment, so this organism mutate generally but what is important is what does it translate to, we talk of phenotypically (the physical structure of the virus) does it translate to faster transmission, which is what we have now, does it translate to a more virulent pathogenic that kills faster and kill more people like the AIDS virus?
So, generally it is in the nature of viruses to mutate into different variance. The vaccines that are available are also targeting the spike protein, that is where the virus is attached to the host cell, so when this variance is reported it is good but the real information is what does it mean? What does it translate to phenotypically? That is the most important thing. The one that is very critical is the ones we call the escape mutant, the surveillance and monitoring must be sustained. People have been talking about herd immunity; herd immunity is the portion of people in a particular population to that have protective immunity, generally about 70 to 80 percent of a population to achieve what we call the dead end host situation.
Possibility of re-infection
There is the possibility but it is very rare, it is not a common occurrence, it is possible but not common, it is possible because of what is called the escape mutant; escape mutant is a variant that is different from what people have been exposed to or built immunity against. That is why monitoring is very important, we do not have enough data yet but people think what is currently happening in India could be some level of re-infection, they may be dealing with a variant that they were not exposed to before because it should ordinary at the level of the outbreak no matter what they would have had some level of herd immunity to protect them to some level, so it is possible with this escape mutant that is why surveillance and monitoring are very crucial.
Is it possible to be with COVID over three months or more?
What we know is that the range about 80 percent should be infected for no more than 14 to 21 days, beyond that we have also observed some people who have 50 to 60 days of infection but 90 days is probably what we need to do more study on, it could be serious to carry the virus for that long, but also you have some asymptomatic patients and some people that are called poor respondents in terms of immunity but pathologically it could be very serious if one carries the virus for that long, but from what we know of respiratory virus, is we know that within 6 weeks, it could be with the same infection but if its more than 6 weeks, you have probably been re-infected. Re-infection is common; it has been reported in Nigeria.
COVID 19 and local herbs
The herbs that are being used are things that are called anti-inflammatory agents. The anti-inflammatory agents have shown to help, but they are not anti-viral, anti-viral will clear virus, not anti-inflammatory agents, so some of these like bitter kola, bitter leaf, ginger and all some of things are either anti-inflammatory or immune boosters some of these products have been shown to boost the immune system, it is not peculiar to COVID, they are not specific for treatment. Then a lot of vegetables that we eat as food are known as anti-inflammatory agents and as anti-oxidants, so all those will help till the body immune system will help until the virus is eliminated by prescribed treatment. The immune system is a big factor to fight off diseases.
Can asymptomatic patients infect or not?
I think that is part of what enhanced the spread, the thing is that once you have the virus you can infect if you have the symptoms or not. In fact, that is the danger. Let me give you this statistics from our study, it’s just that I don’t want to sound as stigmatising, what we find is that among the population of those most infected are people working in crowded places, those working in an environment that are enclosed in air-conditioned offices. You see people who are not showing symptoms infecting others. That is why it is so difficult to control.
When do you think the world will begin to normalise?
Globally, it is what the world will have to learn to live with, once vaccine becomes available as we now have and still developing, then the problem is almost solved, so it will be whether it will be an annual jab just like influenza, that we will know in another few years, there is this thing we call new normal, I think we may have to live with this as new normal, it may not just disappear overnight. Once this virus comes and gets established in human population, it is difficult to get rid of it.
Nigeria ranks 150 out of 180 countries in 2022 Transparency International Corruption Index
The Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC), Auwal Ibrahim Musa Rafsanjani, has announced that Nigeria ranked 150 out of 180 countries in the 2022 Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI).
This according to Rafsanjani is four places lower than the 154th position in the country’s 2021 CPI results.
Rafsanjani made the announcement on Tuesday at a press briefing held at CISLAC meeting hall, Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.
He however added that in terms of points, the country has retrained 24 points it had in 2021.
He also noted that the data index used for the CPI is not collected by CISLAC/TI- Nigeria but by Independent and reputable organisations with sound research methodologies.
“While Nigeria moved four places up on the country ranking, it has maintained it’s previous score of 24 which is it’s lowest score on the CPI since 2012, which suggests a slowdown in the steady decline observed in the previous three CPI’s, he said.”
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The CISLAC boss lamented the rate of corruption in the country and reserved some blames for the Judiciary.
“Nigeria as a country has reached a point where citizens should come out in their millions to protest against corruption, thus, with the expectations that this regime could address the issue of corruption, yet the world continues to face corruption with the help of high profile officials,” he lamented.
Among other recommendations, CISCLAC called on the executive arm of government to stop granting pardon to corrupt politicians recklessly.
As a means to curb and tackle the incessant corruption in Nigeria, CISLAC also recommended as follows:
1. The presidency, INEC, political parties, security actors and other relevant bodies should ensure that the 2023 general election are free, fair and credible.
2. The relevant anti-graft agencies should ensure that high profile corruption cases are pursued to their logical conclusion for the benefit of Nigeria and her citizens.
3. Agencies given the mandate to recover assets under the proceeds of Crime (and Management) Act 2022 should ensures that they establish a database where information about assets in their custody is easily accessed by citizens in line with the Act and the proactive provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2011.
4. The Federal government should address the lingering issue of oil theft in the country.
5. The relevant agencies should investigate those behind the important of toxic fuel to Nigeria in 2022.
6. The National assembly should ensure transparency in the implementation of the constituency projects. The relevant agencies should ensure that those found guilty are brought to book.
7. With the election fast approaching, the judiciary should ensure more than ever to deliver justice.
The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) developed by theTransparency International (TI) in 1995 is an annual ranking of countries on the prevalence of corruption within each country, based upon surveys by experts and business executives. It’s aims is to serve as a basis for critical reflection on tangible ways to strengthen the fight against corruption.
No single government can solve Nigeria’s problems – Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday said that no single government can solve Nigeria’s problems.
Buhari, at a state- of- nation dialogue on security, economy and administration of justice in Abuja, stated that efforts of successive governments were required to see the country through its challenges
The President hoped that the event, which was organised by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), would contribute to Nigeria’s development. Buhari, who was represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, reminded lawyers that they owed the nation some responsibilities.
“I would say no one government in this country would be able to solve the problems of Nigeria. But as we build on the precedent set by successive governments, not discarding completely what has been put in place, we would in the course of our desire to build a Nigeria of our dreams, be able to pick one or two things, on which we can concentrate and move.
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“As a government, the outcome of this dialogue can be transmitted to us so that whatever resolutions are reached, that would become part of the documents would prepare us as we transit and hand over to an incoming government.”
Kebbi State Governo, Atiku Bagudu, who also attended the event, said one of the ways to tackle insecurity was to give priority to primary education in the country.
He said most of the causes of insecurity were a result of the breakdown of the social contract towards the people.
Bagudu, therefore, advocated more investment in primary education to turn the situation in the country around.
The governor pointed out that in developed countries, as much as $27,000 is spent on a child, while in Nigeria, a rich state like Lagos, spends far less.
He said: “They (children) have not been provided education. The challenges of inclusion are the most current. We need to include more people and so we have to mobilise more resources.”
Bagudu praised the NBA for the theme of the dialogue, which according to him, is holding ahead of the general election.
Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), Amina Mohammed, condemned the attacks on facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
She also frowned at attacks on some candidates for the general election, as well as fake news and hate speeches focusing on religious and ethnic identities.
The UN chief said: “INEC has been making great strides in improving the transparency, accountability and credibility of Nigeria’s electoral process. The increase in the number of registered voters from 84m to 93m is encouraging and suggests Nigerians are enthusiastic about the electoral process.
“However, we continue to witness attacks against the institution. Fake news, hate speech, based on religious and ethnic identities, violence against candidates as well as INEC facilities and staff since the political campaigns began.”
Mohammed hoped that the elections would provide an opportunity for Nigerians to unite and shape the future of the nation.
She said as Africa’s largest economy with a youthful population, Nigeria cannot afford to fail.
The UN chief said Nigeria must be steeped in economic, social and environmental principles and must be guided by Agenda 2030 and its 17 goals.
“The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an urgent to-do list, a blueprint for global and local action. We needed it to develop peace and prosperity and a thriving natural environment for current and future generations.”
NBA President Yakubu Maikyau (SAN) said there was a need to continuously engage government at all levels on issues affecting the country and the citizenry.
He urged members of the Bench and Bar to always ensure that justice was served without fear of favour.
The New Chairman of the Police Service Commission, Solomon Arase, encouraged the deployment of technology to secure the country.
Arase, who added that government cannot solve security problems alone, said the establishment of reform panels over insecurity was a waste of time.
Angry youths protest in Kano, stone Buhari’s helicopter
There was a protest in some parts of Kano on Monday by some angry youths during President Muhammadu Buhari’s working visit to the state.
In an area, the youths were seen throwing stones at Buhari’s helicopter.
They were however dispersed by security agents who fired shots in the air to scare them away.
The protesting youths were chanting “Ba mu so” (We don’t want) as they set a bonfire of tyres along Hotoro Road where the President went to commission the Muhammadu Buhari Interchange.
The development came hours after Abdullahi Ganduje, Kano governor, made a U-turn over the president’s visit to the state.
Ganduje had asked the president to postpone the visit over security concerns and difficulty in accessing the new naira notes.
There were also videos that went viral on Monday showing stones littering a road said to be the area where the president’s convoy was expected to pass through.
In one of the videos, a voice in the background said the people were angry at the president and decided to attack him with stones.
Reacting to the incident in a statement, Debo Ologunagba, PDP spokesperson, described the alleged incident as treason and sacrilege.
“This organised attack on the person of the President is outrightly treasonable and a sacrilegious assault on our national sovereignty which must be condemned by all,” the PDP said.
“Our Party is alarmed that this attack is part of APC Presidential Candidate’s alleged plot to undermine the Presidency, cause confusion, trigger violence in the country, disrupt the conduct of the 2023 general elections and derail our democracy; having realised that he cannot win in a peaceful, free and fair electoral process.
“The PDP invites Nigerians to note how Governor Abdullahi Ganduje attempted to abridge President Buhari’s movement and even tried to stop him from visiting Kano State. More disquieting is the fact that the APC Presidential Campaign sought to humiliate and harm President Buhari, while performing his official duties in Kano.
“It should be noted that the APC Presidential Candidate has been displaying open aversion and making inciting statements against President Buhari since Mr. President’s declaration, in line with democratic best practice all over the world, that Nigerians should freely vote for any candidate and Party of their choice in the 2023 general elections.
“The apparent frustration of Asiwaju Tinubu to resort to encourage or condone violence is fueled by his entitlement mentality, that it is his turn to be President, despite his numerous ineligibility and disability baggage.
“Nigerians are reminded about Asiwaju Tinubu’s infamous statement in London where he declared to his supporters that ‘political power is not going to be served in a restaurant, it is not served a la carte. It is what we are doing; It is being determined; you do it at all cost; fight for it, grab it, snatch it and run with it’.”
However, Bayo Onanuga, spokesperson for the APC presidential campaign council, dismissed the claim of the attack and criticised the PDP for reacting to something “imaginary”.
“We were not surprised to read of the imaginary attack on the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria being peddled by the Peoples Democratic Party since the party has nothing tangible to tell Nigerians from its crumbling Presidential Campaign,” Onanuga said.
He also said,“This invented attack on President Muhammadu Buhari must have happened only in the fertile imagination of PDP National Publicity Secretary, one Debo Ologunagba.
“Nigerians should disregard this fake news from a party that has lost touch with reality and suffering the agony of violating its own rules on power rotation.
“Just as it has been masterminding fake news against the APC presidential candidate and trying vainly to cause disharmony in the APC family, we believe the party may have planned to embarrass President Buhari in Kano and then put the blame on host Governor Ganduje and Tinubu.
“This is because PDP has of recent morphed from being a Buhari virulent critic to strangely becoming a Buhari spokesperson! The last time it issued a self-serving misinterpretation of Asíwájú’s statement in Abeokuta as an attack on President Buhari.
“It should be quite obvious to Nigerians that the knowledge of impending defeat of PDP at the coming presidential poll has pushed the party and its candidate into frenzied hallucinatory mode of mindless, ridiculous, ludicrous litany of lies and fabrications against APC and its candidate.
“The PDP is a drowning party feverishly clawing at any straw of lies and lashing out in all delusional directions to keep afloat – but sink it will. We believe Nigerians are not taken in by the jejune antics.”
Onanuga also asked security agencies to “arrest” Ologunagba over his comments regarding the alleged attack.
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