Authorities in Nigeria urged people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 on Monday, as a new variant first detected in South Africa has been spreading quickly to other countries around the world.
The Executive Secretary of Primary Healthcare Board in Abuja, Dr. Ndaeyo Iwot, said: “it’s no more fashionable to be hesitant (about the vaccine).”
Africa’s most populous country has not registered any case of the new variant, but remains alert and trying to expand its vaccination campaign to reach as many people as possible.
“Nobody knows what tomorrow may bring, so it’s good we come out and take the vaccine,” said Chinedu Ofoegbu, a businessman that took the jab of the vaccine at a center in the capital of the country.
The World Health Organization warned that the global risk from the omicron variant is “very high” based on early evidence, saying the mutated coronavirus could lead to surges with “severe consequences.”
The UN health agency, in a technical paper issued to member states, said “considerable uncertainties” remain about the variant that was first detected days ago in southern Africa.
But it said it is possible the variant has mutations that could enable it to escape an immune-system response and boost its ability to spread from one person to another.
The warning came as a widening circle of countries around the world reported cases of the variant and moved to slam their doors shut while scientists race to figure out just how dangerous this version might be.
Despite the global worry, and the closing of borders and banning of flights in several countries, scientists cautioned that it is still unclear whether omicron is more alarming than other versions.
So far, doctors in South Africa are reporting patients are suffering mostly mild symptoms, but they warn that it is still early.
Also, most of the new cases are in people in their 20s and 30s, who generally do not get as sick from COVID-19 as older patients.
The variant has provided further proof of what experts have long been saying: that no continent will be safe until the whole globe has been sufficiently vaccinated.
The more the virus is allowed to spread, the more opportunities it has to mutate.