By Mary Hearty

With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases and emergence of new variants, there is need to scale up vaccine roll out to protect people from getting exposed to the virus and the new variants, expert says.

Prof. Walter Jaoko, Director of KAVI-Institute of Clinical Research and Professor of Medical Microbiology from the University of Nairobi said during a virtual media briefing dubbed: COVID-19 Vaccines and Virus Mutations hosted by Africa Science Media Centre (AfriSMC).

“Global community needs to come together and understand that controlling COVID-19 only in some countries and leaving it to continue spreading in other parts of the world is a disadvantage to them as well because we will get mutations and the current vaccines would likely be ineffective on those new variants,” he noted.

“We need more people vaccinated, less virus circulation, and that will result in fewer mutations and less variants.”

Additionally, Prof. Jaoko called for the public to continue observing the measures put in place to protect themselves from contacting the Coronavirus and the variants. These include: staying at home if unwell, washing hands, maintaining social distancing, sneezing in elbow, using disposable tissue once, wearing masks and avoiding handshake among others.

Besides reducing the spread of the virus and emergence of new variants, Prof Jaoko explained that vaccines are a critical tool in the battle against COVID -19 vaccine because they help in prevention of severe disease.

He added: “We must not put off getting vaccinated just because of our concerns about new variants. We must keep on with vaccination even if we are trying to see whether the vaccines are less effective against some variants. We must continue using the tools in hand as we improve them.”

Prof. Jaoko called for equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine and cautioned against some developed countries hoarding more vaccine than needed by their populations yet other countries are still struggling with access.

Africa has only vaccinated less than 2% of its population despite the global COVID-19 vaccination standing at 15% , he noted.

Once the global population is fully vaccinated, the medical microbiology expert acknowledged that life will come back to normal such as resumption of social gatherings, lifting of travel bans and curfews, as well as lifting measures like wearing masks.