Adekola, Tometi, Others Insist on Vaccination, Say Herd Immunity Achievable

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– As Oyo PSN holds advocacy meeting for healthcare workers

Piqued by the rate of vaccine hesitancy among Nigerians, as well as a general indifference towards COVID-19 safety protocols, experts have warned that this will not only threaten effective COVID-19 response but prevent Nigeria from achieving herd immunity.

Speaking at the recent advocacy meeting organised by the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Oyo State Chapter, at the Western Hall, House of Assembly Complex, Oyo State Secretariat, Ibadan, Pharm. Kunle Tometi, clinical pharmacist, CEO and pharmacist-in-charge of Total Pharmacy, Dallas, Texas, USA, defined “herd immunity” as a form of indirect protection from an infectious disease that can occur with some diseases, when a sufficient percentage of a population has become immune, whether through vaccination or previous infections. This, according to him, reduces the likelihood of infection for individuals who lack immunity.

According to him, if about 70 per cent of Nigerians are immune or protected from COVID-19, or any kind of infection, chances of the other unimmunised population, getting infected would be very low. He added that it is therefore important that Nigerians should develop a new attitude towards receiving the vaccine as and when due.

Speaking further, Tometi, a Fellow of the Nigerian Association of Pharmacists and Pharmaceutical Scientists in the Americas (NAPPSA), who was the keynote speaker at the event, said if Nigeria could reach herd immunity level, it would mean that the virus can no longer spread rapidly, as most of the population would either be fully vaccinated or have become immune.

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Speaking on the theme, “Attaining Herd Immunity through Preventative Services in Healthcare Delivery”, Tometi defined preventative healthcare as care that prevents disease, injury, or illness, rather than treating a condition that has already become catastrophic or acute, saying the goal of preventive care is to help people stay healthy.

Tometi also called for the inclusion of community pharmacies as sites of adult vaccination, saying barriers to improving adult vaccination rates range from a lack of public awareness regarding the need for vaccines and the threat of vaccine-preventable diseases, to challenges regarding financial or reimbursement systems for providers, adding that pharmacists are ideally positioned to overcome some of these obstacles.

“Pharmacists are very valuable, as more pharmacies than ever are offering vaccination services, increasing the numbers of providers and access points for patients. More than 90 per cent of Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy, and as of 2011 to 2012 influenza season, more than 20 per cent of adults reported receiving a flu vaccine from a drug store or supermarket pharmacy.

“Not only are pharmacies plentiful in all types of urban and suburban areas, but they also offer the convenience of extended hours, including holidays, and often at a lower cost,” he said.

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The clinical pharmacist continued: “In preparation for a successful COVID-19 vaccine, government must consider various elements in their vaccination policy. These include the estimated herd immunity threshold, methods of vaccine delivery, vaccine clinic locations, staffing arrangements and training, and strategies for vaccine prioritisation. Pharmacists can and should play a key role in the rollout of mass (COVID-19) vaccinations.”

Also speaking at the programme, Dr Samuel Adekola, national chairman, Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN), said to improve the rate of vaccination among adults, communities need to provide more education about and access points for vaccination services, adding that patients need to know why vaccination is important.

“This challenge has created widespread interest in the role pharmacists can play in creating and implementing measures aimed at improving the administration of recommended vaccines and, ultimately, stopping vaccine-preventable diseases. Community pharmacies with big space should also be considered as appropriate locations for COVID-19 vaccination,” he said.

Adekola also noted that pharmacists are in a unique and highly beneficial position in helping public health efforts to close the vaccination gap for adults, adding that pharmacists are easily accessible healthcare providers whose training and certification prepare them for fully participating in all aspects of community vaccination delivery.

Speaking earlier, the chairman, PSN, Oyo State, Pharm. Oguntoye Adegboyega said the purpose of the programme was for advocacy, as well as to enlighten the public on the role pharmacists play in society, especially the under-utilisation of pharmacists by the government at this period of COVID-19 pandemic.

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According to him, “Pharmacists should be placed in the rightful position, when it comes to healthcare delivery. Just like we have in Oyo State, we discovered that there are still some sectors, agencies, and others where the role of pharmacists is still missing, our members are not there and our services are not there. Pharmacists play a great role in the healthcare sector and are experts on drug and drug-related matters.

“Pharmacists are one of the most underutilised healthcare professionals in Nigeria. The deficiency of pharmacists in health agencies, local government health services, and community immunisation programmes in this age suggests retrogression. The exclusion of pharmacists in the spaces where they can advance healthcare delivery in the country is only counterproductive.”

The highpoint of the event was the presentation of award plaques to some of the dignitaries, which included Pharm. Chief Tunji Amole, chairman, BOF, Oyo State; Pharm. Leke Ogunsola, chairman, Primary Healthcare Board, Osun State; Mrs Olubamiwo Adeosun, secretary to Oyo State Government; Pharm. Abiodun Ajibade, former chairman, PSN, Oyo State; Rt. Hon. Edward Adebo Ogundoyin, speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly, represented by Hon. Riliwan Gbadamosi, chairman, House Committee on Health, among others.

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