Minister of Health Prof. Isaac Adewole said the current outbreak of Lassa fever in the country is because the administration of former president Goodluck Jonathan failed to implement a roadmap drawn in 2012.
The minister also disclosed that the ministry was going to begin testing on a potential vaccine that would be used to prevent the virus.
Prof. Isaac Adewole disclosed these while briefing the Senate Committee on Health headed by Sen. Lanre Tejuosho (APC, Lagos) on the outbreak of the lassa virus in Nigeria.
Prof. Isaac Adewole put the number of cases as of today was 129 adding that the hospital which treated the deceased victim of the disease before referral to the national hospital was being investigated.
The minister said that the virus would have been defeated by now if there was the Jonathan administration had the political will to implement a roadmap designed in 2012 to forestall future occurrence.
He said: “In 2012 we recorded 1723 cases, after that, because of the severity, the post lassa fever outbreak workshop took place and an action plan to ensure this will never happen again was put in place.
“But this action plan was never implemented because it was never funded. We will dust the old plan, modernize it and look at if from the political perspective: what can we do to provide leadership, to provide support.”
On the vaccine being developed to tackle the disease, the minister said government has been “notified of a candidate vaccine which we will put through chemical trial to find out if it would work.
“We call it a candidate vaccine and we would want to run it through trials and that takes some time. Hopefully we will do that this year, once we consider it to be effective and safe then we put it to use.
“If it works then that means that we would be able to immunize people in the affected areas but for now we will continue with our surveillance,” he said.
He revealed that the vaccine was co-developed by some Nigerians while saying that the current outbreak is a national embarrassment because although there were about 1723 cases in 2012, the percentage death rate of the current outbreak was higher.
He added that the virus had been a yearly occurrence with 400 cases recorded in 2014 although not as publicized as the current outbreak.
“We can assure you that we are not going to sleep, we will remain at work, we are actively moving across the country,” he assured the committee.
On the recent death of a victim at the National Hospital in Abuja, he said that the ministry was investigating the hospital where the victim was first treated for one week.
He said that the Abuja victim actually came from Plateau state because he was ill and landed in a private hospital where he was kept for one week before he was referred.
He said that the dead victim was only referred to the National Hospital when he was already unconscious and therefore died 24 hours later.
“It is unfortunate because if we had picked this man earlier on, we would have been able to put him on medication and he could have been alive today.
“The situation which happened in that private hospital I have asked our people to investigate. We will sanction the doctor or the proprietor if we find any act on negligence on his or her part,” he said.
In his remark, the Chairman of the Committee said that the Senate will be willing to approve money for the health of Nigerians not just for lassa but for other ailments.