Diphtheria: WHO urges FG to increase routine vaccination

By Franca Ofili


The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called on the Federal Government to
increase routine vacc

ination to nip outbreaks in the bud.

Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General made the call during an online media conference.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports diphtheria to be an acute and highly contagious bacterial disease causing inflammation of the mucous membranes, formation of a false membrane in the throat which hinders breathing and swallowing.

It is potentially fatal heart and nerve damage by a bacterial toxin in the blood. It is now rare in developed countries owing to immunisation.

Tedros said that Nigeria was experiencing a severe outbreak of diphtheria

According to him, so far, more than 9000 suspected cases have been reported across 17 states, with 307 deaths.

“This is the second wave of diphtheria this year,” he said.

According to him, diphtheria is a highly contagious but vaccine-preventable disease, caused by a bacterium which can be fatal in five to 10 per cent of cases, with a higher mortality rate in young children.

He said that WHO was supporting the government to improve vaccination, surveillance, case management and risk communication.

” We are also working with partners to increase access to vaccines and antitoxin.

“This outbreak and others highlight the need to increase routine vaccination to stop these outbreaks before they start,” WHO boss said.

On COVID-19, he said that the organisation had continued to see concerning trends for COVID-19 ahead of the winter season in the northern hemisphere.

Tedros said that the deaths were increasing in some parts of the Middle East and Asia, saying: ” ICU admissions are increasing in Europe and hospitalisations are increasing in several regions.”

He, however, regretted that “data is limited.”

According to him, only 43 countries less than a quarter of WHO member states are reporting deaths to WHO, and only 20 provide information on hospitalisations.

“Globally, there is not one variant that is dominant.

” The variant of interest EG.5 is on the rise, while the XBB sub variants are declining.

” The BA.2.86 variant has been detected in small numbers in 11 countries.

” WHO is monitoring this variant closely to assess its transmissibility and potential impact,” he said.

Tedros said that one of WHO’s biggest concerns was the low level of at-risk people who had received a dose of COVID-19 vaccine recently.

He said that the organisation’s message was not to wait to get an additional dose if it was recommended for the person.

Tedros said that WHO published an annex to the global strategic preparedness and response plan for COVID-19, “which further supports countries in five critical areas.”

He said the areas were collaborative surveillance, community protection, safe and scalable care, access to countermeasures and coordination.

“The increase in hospitalisations and deaths shows that COVID is here to stay, and that we will continue to need tools to fight it.

“Over three years ago, WHO and our partners launched the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) to facilitate sharing of intellectual property, knowledge and innovations for vaccines, tests, treatments and other tools,” he said.

Tedros said that in early September, C-TAP announced three new licensing agreements acquired through the medicines patent pool.

” The licensing are Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp. offered its patent and know-how for its COVID-19 vaccine

“The Spanish National Research Council shared a second licence for a vaccine prototype; and the University of Chile shared its technology for a COVID-19 assay for quantifying neutralizing antibodies,” he said.

The WHO boss appreciated the three institutions for sharing their technology and expertise with C-TAP, which demonstrated proof of concept of the model.

He said that the organisation was now reviewing the C-TAP model with a view to developing a new, broader access model for technologies, “which we plan to announce by the end of the year.”(NAN)