Covid-19 FAQ

What’s COVID-19?

COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus, known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2). This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

Where do coronavirus come from?

Coronaviruses are viruses that circulate among animals, with some infecting humans. Bats are considered natural hosts of these viruses, and several other species of animals are also known to act as sources. For instance, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is transmitted to humans from camels, while Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-1 (SARS-CoV-1) is transmitted to humans from civet cats.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, dry cough, and difficulty in breathing. Some patients may have body aches and pains, loss of smell, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, or diarrhea. These symptoms usually start mildly and gradually become serious. Some people become infected but do not develop any symptoms and do not feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing hospitalization. Around 1 out of every 6 people who get COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty in breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical conditions like high blood pressure, heart problems, cancer, or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.

How does COVID-19 Spread?

COVID-19 spreads from person to person (human-to-human transmission) through direct contact. It is currently estimated that, in the absence of physical distancing and other preventive measures, one infected person will on average infect between two and three other people. The virus is transmitted mainly via respiratory droplets and aerosols when sneezing, coughing, or interacting with others in close proximity (usually less than two metres). These droplets can be inhaled or can land on surfaces that others come into contact with and are then infected when they touch their nose, mouth or eyes. The virus can survive on surfaces from between several hours (copper, cardboard) up to a few days (plastic and stainless steel). However, the amount of viable virus declines over time and may not always be present in sufficient amount to cause infection.

The incubation period for COVID-19 (i.e. the time between exposure to the virus and the onset of symptoms) is currently estimated to be between one and 14 days. We know that the virus can be transmitted when people who are infected show symptoms such as coughing. A person who is infected can also transmit the virus up to two days before they show symptoms; the extent to which such asymptomatic infections contribute to the overall transmission is not currently clear.

How can I protect myself from getting infected?

If you are healthy, the use of a medical face mask when visiting busy, closed places reduces the spread of the infection in the community. Always follow local recommendations regarding the use of masks in public spaces.

Avoid touching your face
The virus can enter your body via your eyes, nose and/or mouth, so it is important to avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.

Wash your hands
Frequent washing of hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or cleaning hands thoroughly with alcohol-based solutions, gels or tissues is recommended in all settings.

Stay away from infected persons
Avoid having close contacts with people infected with COVID-19.

Avoid social gatherings
Avoid physical meetings, events and other social gatherings in areas with ongoing community transmission and follow local recommendations applicable to mass gatherings.

Use a face mask
Wear a face mask indoors and outdoors whenever physical distancing with other people cannot be guaranteed.

If I am sick, how do I protect my loved ones and others?

Use a face mask If you are infected, the use of a medical face mask reduces the risk of you infecting other people.

Cough and sneeze etiquette Cough or sneeze into your elbow or use a disposable tissue. If you use a tissue, dispose of it carefully after a single use and then wash your hands.

Stay at home if you are sick If you feel unwell, stay at home. If you develop any symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, call your healthcare provider for advice immediately.

Keep physical distancing’ Physical distancing’ means physically staying apart from other people. Maintain social contact with friends, family and colleagues from a distance instead.

Self-isolation Self-isolate if you know you are infected with COVID-19, or if you have any symptoms of an acute respiratory infection like a cough, fever, sore throat, or runny nose.

COVID-19 VACCINES

COVID-19 vaccines aim to prevent COVID-19 disease by triggering an immune response.

COVID-19 vaccines are being developed following the same legal requirements for quality, safety, and efficacy as for all other vaccines.

Like all vaccines, the effects of COVID-19 vaccines are tested first in the laboratory, including in animals, and then in human volunteers.

The National Regulatory Authority, such as NAFDAC, is the agency in charge of evaluation and supervision of medicinal products. It will evaluate COVID-19 vaccines against the same high standards as for all other vaccines before they can be released for use. NAFDAC will continually monitor side effects in people who have received COVID-19 vaccines and identify and evaluate new information that arises on the benefits and safety of COVID-19 vaccines promptly.

Covid-19 Vaccines

COVID-19 vaccines aim to prevent COVID-19 disease by triggering an immune response.

COVID-19 vaccines are being developed following the same legal requirements for qualitysafety, and efficacy as for all other vaccines. Like all vaccines, the effects of COVID-19 vaccines are tested first in the laboratory, including in animals, and then in human volunteers.

The National Regulatory Authority, such as NAFDAC, is the agency in charge of evaluation and supervision of medicinal products. It will evaluate COVID-19 vaccines against the same high standards as for all other vaccines before they can be released for use. NAFDAC will continually monitor side effects in people who have received COVID-19 vaccines and identify and evaluate new information that arises on the benefits and safety of COVID-19 vaccines promptly.

Were safety procedures and standards not compromised to develop and produce COVID-19 vaccine in less than one year, when it took 5-10 years or more to develop and produce other well known, safe and efficacious childhood vaccines and others like yellow fever and polio vaccines?

No, standards were not compromised nor were safety procedures ignored in producing COVID-19 vaccine. It is huge misconception to assume that the work on COVID-19 vaccine started when the pandemic began. Prior to the development of the COVID-19 vaccines, scientists had experimented and perfected a fast and flexible method- plug and play-to revolutionise vaccine development and production.
Researchers at Oxford University had constructed ChAdOx1 – or Chimpanzee Adenovirus Oxford One and used it as the building block for vaccine against almost any disease. Before COVID-19, over three hundred people had been given ChAdOx1 based-vaccines for diseases ranging from flu to Zika virus, and prostate cancer to the tropical disease chikungunya. The ChAdOx1 is modified to contain the genetic blueprints for whatever you want to train the immune system to attack. ChAdOx1 is in essentially a sophisticated, microscopic postman, and scientists then change the package, such as COVID-19 spike proteins to be delivered by the ChAdOx1 postman.

How was it possible to produce COVID-19 vaccines so rapidly?

The practice of taking 5-10 years to produce a vaccine does not apply anymore with the availability of new technologies. The COVID-19 vaccines were developed using a new technology — The messenger RNA vaccine (mRNA). Older vaccines  typically require a lot of virus to first be produced. But mRNA vaccines and other new vaccine technologies do not. They rely on materials that can be synthesized in a laboratory with no virus needed. This makes them very quick to develop. Scientists have acquired a lot of experience on how to effectively deliver the mRNA to the cells from previous experience with Zika, rabies and influenza mRNA vaccines which went through early phases of clinical trials. Consequently for the mRNA vaccines, the technique was just waiting for the genomic sequence of the SARS-CoV2, which was made available by Chinese scientists within weeks of isolating the virus.  So, the scientists did not start from scratch.

COVID-19  production was supported by the highest number of scientists collaborating on a common virus ever witnessed.  Across the globe, scientists worked together  to find a vaccine, sharing data and knowledge in real time. This significantly reduced  research time by years. Moreover, funding was not a challenge as massive amounts of money were pumped into the process by rich governments and private organizations.

Another time-consuming phase of any research is the time the regulatory body takes to study and approve drugs, this also usually takes years and are mostly done at the end of the research. But because of time and the urgency to save lives, instead of the regulatory boards waiting for both researchers and manufacturers to finish  each stage of  the research and wait for approval from the regulatory boards, they all worked hand in hand through-out the research and trials processes to ensure faster approvals. This is known as rolling review method which was adapted during the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

Usually, it takes time to recruit volunteers for clinical trial. But during the pandemic, a lot of people volunteered to be tested for the new vaccine. Availability of  a lot of volunteers reduced trial times significantly. And finally, instead of putting the candidate vaccines on the usual long waiting list, approval was expedited by prioritizing them while adhering to required protocols, both scientific and legal.

Why should I get vaccinated for COVID-19?

It is strongly recommended that you get vaccinated against COVID-19. The vaccine will protect you from getting infected, sick, or dying. By getting vaccinated, you also protect your loved ones and your community.

How do I get vaccinated against COVID-19?

Nigeria plans to introduce the COVID-19 vaccine in the 1st Quarter of 2021 to halt the ongoing spread of the virus and to save lives. Once the vaccine is available, there will be public announcements on those to be vaccinated through the mass media and traditional channels in the communities on when and where to get the vaccine.

Can the vaccine infect me with COVID-19?

No! the vaccine cannot infect you with COVID-19. It is meant to protect you from COVID -19 infection. Once your vaccination doses are complete, you become protected.

If I have had COVID-19 and have recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated?

Yes. NPHCDA recommends that you get vaccinated even if you have already had COVID-19, because you can be infected more than once. While you may have some short-term antibody protection after recovering from COVID-19, we do not know how long this protection will last. Hence, it is recommended that that you get vaccinated because you can be re-infected.

Can pregnant women receive the vaccine?

Available data on vaccination of pregnant women are insufficient to assess vaccine efficacy or vaccine-associated risks in pregnancy. However, the vaccine is not a live virus vaccine, the mRNA does not enter the nucleus of the cell and is degraded quickly. In the interim, WHO does not recommend vaccination in pregnancy, unless the benefit of vaccinating a pregnant woman outweighs the potential vaccine risks, such as in health workers at high risk of exposure and those pregnant women with comorbidities placing them in a high-risk group for severe COVID-19. Pregnant women should consult their Doctors.

Can lactating mothers receive the vaccine?

There are no data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in lactating women or on the effects of mRNA vaccines on breastfed children. Lactating health workers should be offered vaccination. WHO does not recommend discontinuing breastfeeding after vaccination. This is because it is biologically and clinically unlikely that vaccination will pose a risk to the breastfeeding child.

Can the COVID-19 vaccine alter human genetic information (DNA)?

No! COVID – 19 vaccine does not alter your DNA. It triggers an immune response that will protect your body against the virus if encountered. Once you and your community members are protected, the chances of the spread of the disease are reduced.

Does COVID-19 vaccine contain a micro-chip?

NO! COVID-19 – 19 vaccine does not contain any harmful substance or micro-chip. All vaccines including COVID-19 vaccines are manufactured under strict compliance with WHO guidelines. Also, before the vaccine is administered in Nigeria, NAFDAC will certify it safe for human use.

Is it safe to get a COVID-19 vaccine if I have an underlying medical condition?

Yes. COVID-19 vaccination is especially important for people with underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, cancer, etc. People with these conditions are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19. The vaccine does not cause the disease but helps the body to develop immunity against the disease.

Is it better to get natural immunity to COVID-19 rather than immunity from a vaccine?

No. There is no guarantee that if you get COVID-19, you will get immunity. In fact, you may get serious illness and die or have debilitating symptoms that may persist for months. Even if you survive the disease, you may only develop short-term antibody protection after recovery from COVID-19, we do not know how long this protection lasts. Therefore, vaccination is the best protection, and it is safe.

Will the shot hurt or make me sick?

Mild side effects may occur as in any other vaccinations. However, they are signs that the vaccine is working to build your immunity. This does not mean you have COVID-19. If they do not go away in a few days, please see your doctor.

How do I know if COVID-19 vaccine is safe?

Before a vaccine is certified for use, it must receive approval from WHO. Here in Nigeria, in addition to WHO approval, all vaccines including COVID-19 vaccine are certified safe for use by NAFDAC. Even when in use, NAFDAC continues to monitor the vaccine to ensure it causes no harm.

Do I still need to wear facemask after vaccination?

Yes, you are advised to continue to practice the preventive measures – wear your face masks, frequently wash your hands with soap and running water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer, observe physical distancing and avoid large gathering and unnecessary travels to stop community transmission of COVID-19.
This is because getting the vaccine does not stop you from getting exposed to someone who has been infected, but the vaccination and development of immunity will stop the infection from progressing to disease – hence you still need to practice the preventive measures.

Can a person with current acute COVID-19 disease receive the vaccine?

No. Vaccination of persons with acute symptomatic COVID-19 disease should be deferred until they have recovered from acute illness and the criteria for discontinuation of isolation have been met.

Can children and adolescents below the age of 18 years receive the vaccine?

There is currently no efficacy or safety data for children or adolescents below the age of 18 years. Until such data are available, individuals below 18 years of age should not be vaccinated.

Can a person above 85 years of age receive the vaccine?

Yes. The safety and immunogenicity data obtained in a large subset of older people with and without comorbidities suggest that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the potential risks. Vaccination is recommended for older persons without an upper age limit.

Will clinical trials be done for the vaccine on arrival in Nigeria?

No. currently, Nigeria does not have facilities for clinical trials in-country. The country did not indicate interest to be part of the global clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccine when it was being conducted. However, before COVID-19 vaccine is used in Nigeria, NAFDAC will conduct laboratory-based evaluation before certifying the vaccine safe for use. NAFDAC, the national regulatory authority in charge of evaluation and supervision of medical products in Nigeria, will continually monitor any side effects in people who have received COVID-19 vaccine and identify and evaluate new information that may arise on the benefits and safety of the vaccine.

Should I get vaccinated if I have allergies?

No. A history of severe allergic reaction (e.g., anaphylaxis) to any component of the vaccine is a contraindication to vaccination. More importantly, mRNA vaccine should not be administered to individuals with a known history of severe allergic reaction to polyethylene glycol (PEG) or related molecules as PEG is a component of the vaccine.

When will the vaccines be available in Nigeria?

The first batch of COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be in Nigeria latest by the end of the first quarter of this year.

Does Nigeria have adequate storage capacity for COVID-19 vaccines?

Yes. The Federal Government through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency recently purchased three ultracold chain (UCC) equipment domiciled  at the National Strategic Cold Store. The UCC equipment are capable of storing up to 400,000 doses of mRNA vaccines at a temperature of -60 to -80 degree centigrade. The mRNA vaccines can be stored at +2 to +8 degree centigrade at the health facility level for 5 days. With the availability storage capacity for mRNA vaccines, Nigeria is ready to receive the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines. The NPHCDA  also has Walk in freezer rooms that can store vaccines at -25 to -15 degree centigrade.

For non-mRNA vaccines which require storage temperature of +2 to +8 degree centigrade, Nigeria through the routine immunization delivery system already has enough storage capacity at the national, zonal, state, LGA, ward and health facility levels. Health Facilities have Solar  Cold Chain Equipment  to ensure that the potency of the vaccine is maintained.

When will I be able to get vaccinated?

A phased COVID-19 vaccine roll-out plan has been developed by NPHCDA due to availability of vaccines in-country and risk prioritization of individuals based on their level of exposure to COVID-19 and development of severe form of disease. COVID-19 vaccine introduction phases include: Phase 1: Health workers, Phase 2: Remaining health workers and persons 50 years and above, Phase 3: Persons with other underlying medical conditions and Phase 4: Other target population based on disease burden.

General FAQ

What are vaccines?

Vaccines are substances that produces immunity from a disease. It may contain an antigen (e.g. measles, yellow fever & polio vaccines) or a combination of antigens (e.g. pentavalent vaccine). An antigen is a biological agent that induces immune response in the human body.

What is immunization?

Immunization is the process by which a person is protected from or made resistant to an infectious disease, typically by administering a vaccine at dened periods. Immunization is like activating the body’s army or defense mechanism against harmful organisms.

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines work by preparing the body to fight germs that may cause illness. When germs or disease-causing micro-organisms enter the body, the immune system produces antibodies to fight them. Vaccines contain antigens, which are dead or considerably weakened organisms or part of the organism that when administered, help to produce antibodies. Whenever a vaccinated individual is exposed to the actual disease, the antibodies already produced destroy and eliminate the germs and prevent the individual from ill-health and/or death. Vaccines provide immunity from various kinds of infectious diseases.

Are Vaccines safe for my child?

Yes. Vaccines are very safe. The Nigerian government long-standing vaccine safety system ensures that vaccines are as safe as possible. Millions of children are safely vaccinated each year.

What are the vaccine preventable diseases?

Many of the common diseases that kill Nigerian children are vaccine-preventable. For example, there are vaccines against pneumonia, measles, diarrhoeal diseases, meningitis, tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, Hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough (i.e. pertussis) and yellow fever among others. Cervical cancer – the second most common cancer, which kills many women in Nigeria – can also be prevented by Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Vaccine. It should be noted that many organisms cause pneumonia and diarrhoea, and that the available vaccines provide protection against some but not all causes of pneumonia and diarrhoea. The good news is that the available vaccines target the deadliest causes of these diseases.

Are Vaccines safe?

Yes. Vaccines are very safe. The United States’ long-standing vaccine safety system ensures that vaccines are as safe as possible. Currently, the United States has the safest vaccine supply in its history. Millions of children are safely vaccinated each year. The most common side e ects are typically very mild, such as pain or swelling at the injection site.

Why do vaccines start so early?

The recommended schedule is designed to protect infants and children by providing immunity early in life, before they are exposed to life-threatening diseases. Children are immunized early because they are susceptible to diseases at a young age, and the consequences of these diseases can be very serious, and even life-threatening, for infants and young children.

My child is healthy. Why do I still need to vaccinate him/her?

Every child is born with naturally-acquired immunity to fight against diseases. Unlike adults, the immune system of children are immature and not strong enough to eliminate many of the germs they may be exposed to. Immunization provides protection to help children fight diseases in their early life, thereby helping to save millions of children around the world from untimely death.

Why is it that some immunized children still get ill from the disease(s) they were immunized against?

There are many possible explanations to this. First, not all causes of a disease may be prevented by vaccination alone. For example, many organisms cause pneumonia and meningitis, but pentavalent and pneumococcal conjugate vaccines protect against the two most common organisms that cause them – Haemophilus infuenza type B (HIB) and Streptococcus pneumoniae. Second, a vaccine that is not stored within the recommended temperature (+2 to +8 degrees Celsius) at the health facility level may lose its potency and become ineffective when administered to clients. In addition to vaccines, good environmental hygiene and regular hand washing with soap and water help to protect children and adults from many infectious diseases.

Are there side effects from vaccination?

The most common side effects are typically very mild; such as pain or swelling at the injection site.

Why do some vaccines have multiple doses?

Getting every recommended dose of each vaccine provides your child with the best protection possible. Depending on the vaccine, more than one dose is needed to build high enough immunity to prevent disease, boost immunity that fades over time, make sure people who did not get immunity from a rst dose are protected, or protect against germs that change over time, like u. Every dose of a vaccine is important because they all protect against infectious diseases that are threats today and can be especially serious for infants and very young children.

Is immunization free in Nigeria?

Yes, all vaccines given via the routine immunization programme in Nigeria are free in government owned/public health facilities across the country. The free vaccines include BCG (against TB), polio, Pentavalent vaccines (contain vaccines against diphtheria, pertussis/whooping cough, tetanus, Hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza type B – HIB), pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV), measles and yellow fever. Depending on the availability of suffcient funds, Rotavirus vaccines may become free from 2018 and Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) a few years later. However, other vaccines are currently not free of charge.