WHO, CEPI to help Nigeria develop Lassa fever vaccine: FG

July 19, 2022
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The federal government says it is engaging with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to develop new therapeutics and a vaccine for Lassa fever.

Health minister Osagie Ehanire announced this at a three-day National Case Management Training on Lassa fever.

Mr Ehanire, represented by junior health minister Joseph Nkama, said the ministry decided to embark on the capacity building in Lassa fever case management, because “we know that doing so will go a long way in reducing mortality in these patients.”

He added, “It is more than 50 years since Lassa fever was first diagnosed in Nigeria. Over the years, some states have been endemic while others record annual outbreaks. The ministry is engaging with WHO  and the CEPI for the development of new therapeutics and a vaccine for Lassa fever.”

According to the health minister, over the last five  years, Nigeria witnessed a sharp rise in confirmed cases of Lassa fever including healthcare worker infections.

“The recent COVID-19 pandemic has taught the country that it cannot afford to undermine any effort put into addressing and reducing high-risk viral pathogens like Lassa fever. It cannot only mutate and pose a new threat, but globalisation can quickly lead to the spread of the disease to non-endemic countries,” noted the health minister.

Mr Ehanire also mentioned that Nigeria had advanced not only in the capacity to diagnose Lassa fever but also in the sequencing of the virus genome to monitor the circulating Lassa viruses.

He said the country’s commitment was also evident in the  emphasis on infection prevention and control measures among healthcare workers to reduce rates of infection within healthcare facilities.

“Now we want to build capacity in case management because we know that doing so will go a long way in reducing mortality in these patients. This training is part of the government’s effort to further reduce mortality from Lassa fever, the ministry has not made this progress in addressing Lassa fever epidemics working alone,” explained the health minister. “WHO has been integral in their support. Their support to the country has spanned from sensitisation and training of healthcare workers to the provision of infection control commodities to treatment centres.”

Mr Ehanire said the WHO also supported public awareness initiatives, surveillance and outbreak response at the state level through the emergency operations centre and at the national level.

According to him, the Institute of Lassa Fever Research and Control, Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, has been actively involved in the management of Lassa Fever patients for many years.

(NAN)

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