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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Nigeria's exhausted medics keep waiting for COVID-19 vaccines

Medics in Nigeria have been exhausted waiting for COVID-19 vaccines as the country requested 10 million doses from African Union on Monday.

One of the doctors on the frontline, Oluwajoba Oroge was bracing himself for the week ahead on Saturday (January 16) - another long line of coronavirus patients at Abuja's private EHA Hospital, and another long wait for news on a vaccine.

Europe has been inoculating it people since early December - but African health authorities say it could still be weeks, even months, until anywhere on the continent gets its first shots.

Every day, said Dr Oroge, cases have been mounting, stocks of protective gear have been dwindling and the number of his colleagues with the energy and health to keep fighting has been falling.

"The cases will continue to rise if we don't have a vaccine to stem things, a vaccine to even give us a herd immunity so that continues to mean more work stress, more mental stress, more stress on all the resources that I as an individual and the facility has to offer," the 30-year-old told Reuters after visiting a patient.

A nurse working on the frontline, Anthonia Obioma, has been to over 25 COVID-19 cases at the private hospital.

"From treating patients with medical conditions, we are now treating patients that actually have COVID-19 so it has been challenging because this is a new illness so we don't even know what to expect when we come to work," Obioma said.

More than 2,600 Nigerian physicians have contracted COVID-19 and dozens of them have died, said Dr Adetunji Adenekan, chairman of the Lagos state branch of the Nigerian Medical Association.

"We have depleting numbers even before this COVID-19 pandemic through brain drain and even during this pandemic a lot of doctors have left the shores of this country so we are depleted every day by the minute and yet we are combating a lot of cases as it is now that the cases are rising," Adenekan said.

Nigeria health minister Osagie Ehanire said last month he was hoping to see the first vaccines arrive through the global COVAX scheme in January, though he gave no details on precise timing, or which shot Nigeria would get.

African states have accused richer regions of cornering most of the supplies. The head of the World Health Organization said last week the world was on the brink of "catastrophic moral failure" when it came to sharing out shots.

Confirmed cases hit daily records across Africa, this month, and a second wave is infecting twice as many people per day as the height of last year's first wave, according to the African Union's Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Nigeria has reported 110,387 confirmed cases, and 1,435 deaths, though African officials have warned that low testing could mask more cases.

Privately, some doctors say they worry that when vaccines arrive in Nigeria, they will go first to the rich and powerful.

"We are really looking forward to that (vaccine) and I hope that it will come to us as soon and as quickly as possible," Doctor Oroge said.


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