Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the world has been waiting for news of a vaccine against the scourge. And misinformation about false cures seems to be spreading faster than the disease itself.
The headline of an article circulating on social media in Nigeria reads: “WHO: Clinical trials of Covid-19 vaccines to begin in Nigeria.”
A similar article was shared on Facebook, also claiming: “WHO To Commence Clinical Trial Of Covid-19 Vaccines In Nigeria.”
With so much misinformation out there, are these heavily shared articles accurate?
‘Drugs not vaccines’
On 2 May 2020, at a joint national briefing of Nigeria’s Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, Fiona Braka, the officer in charge of the World Health Organization in Nigeria, was widely reported to have said that “more than 100 countries have joined the solidarity clinical trial, which was launched by WHO and some partners, to help find an effective treatment for Covid-19”.
“Nigeria has also expressed interest to be part of this solidarity trial and efforts are underway to start the process in Nigeria too,” Braka reportedly said.
Braka has since clarified that she was referring to clinical trials of drugs and not vaccines.
“The claim is not correct. There is no vaccine available yet and Nigeria is not conducting any vaccine trials. The country, along with other several countries in the world, will, however, be contributing information on drug treatments currently in use for Covid-19 to determine the most effective treatment options. This involves drugs already in use, such as anti-viral drugs and chloroquine, that have been repurposed for Covid-19 treatment. This is not a vaccine trial,” Braka told Africa Check.
Solidarity clinical trial for Covid-19 treatments
The WHO describes the “solidarity” trial as an international clinical trial to help find an effective treatment for Covid-19, launched by the WHO and partners.
It will compare four treatment options against standard of care, to assess their relative effectiveness against Covid-19.
The four treatment options are: remdesivir, previously tested as an Ebola treatment; a combination of lopinavir and ritonavir, a licensed treatment for HIV; a combination of lopinavir and ritonavir with interferon beta-1a, used to treat multiple sclerosis; and chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, two drugs which are very closely related and used to treat malaria and rheumatology conditions respectively.
The trial aims to rapidly discover whether any of the drugs slow the progression of Covid-19 or improve survival from it.
But the WHO cautions doctors against recommending or administering these unproven treatments to patients with Covid-19 or people self-medicating with them. The trials are in place precisely to test whether the treatments are effective and safe. – Motunrayo Joel
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