45 COVID-19 variants now in Nigeria, says scientist

Amarachi Okeh

A Professor of Molecular Biology and Genomics in the Department of Biological Sciences, Redeemer’s University Nigeria, Ede, Osun State, Christian Happi says there are about 45 variants of the coronavirus in Nigeria.

Happi stated this on Thursday while speaking at a webinar organised by The Conversation Africa – a platform created to drive engaging discussion on socio-economic issues in Africa.

Speaking at the virtual event titled, “Nigeria and the next pandemic: preparedness, response, and vaccine,” the molecular scientist said the variants are already in circulation in different parts of the country.

“We have identified variants of concern, variants under investigation and variants of interests in the country but the question is do we know why the variants are circulating in different parts of the country?

“The answer to that is no,” he said.

Happi called for a strong collaboration between the public health system, ministries and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, noting that such a partnership was necessary to prepare the country against future pandemics and epidemics.

“Right now, we depend a lot and absolutely on the outside world on diagnostics and testing and that makes us very vulnerable.

“It is a good thing to say we have a biobank and the May and Baker public-private partnership but is it functioning?

“The biobank is not new; it’s been on for a long time. How come we were not prepared and we are still at the point where we cannot produce vaccines for Nigeria?

“Do we need a new pandemic before we get the biobank up and running? How come with all of the information and the available knowledge, we are not able to produce vaccines and diagnostics?

“Preparedness against future pandemics will rely a lot on the ability of Nigeria to be able to produce its own vaccines and diagnostics and there is a need to accelerate those processes.

“There is the need to put the forces together both in the public, private sectors and academia coming together with a framework that can prepare the country,” he said.

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