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NPHCDA Assures Nigerians Safety of COVID-19 Vaccine

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National Primary Health Care Development Agency NPHCDA

By Ahmed Rahma

Nigerians do not need to fret over the safety and effectiveness of any COVID-19 vaccine brought into the country by the federal government.

According to the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), no vaccine can be administered on citizens of the country without first being certified safe and effective by the relevant agencies.

The Executive Secretary of NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib, while speaking at a national sensitisation programme on COVID-19 vaccines for Muslim scholars and Imams in Nigeria in Abuja, said the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the regulatory agency meant to certify the safe use of the vaccines, would be involved in the process.

“I want to assure you that no vaccine will be brought to Nigeria unless it has been certified safe and effective for use.

“We are working with NAFDAC, the regulatory agency that will certify these vaccines are safe.

“We will rather have no vaccine in Nigeria than to bring a bad vaccine to Nigeria,” the health expert said.

According to the executive secretary, the agency is working with both Muslim and Christian faithful through the processes of receiving and delivering the vaccines to the communities.

“The NSCIA will be with us just like we have our Christian brothers also with us in all conversations around the vaccine,” he said.

The agency, Mr Shuaib said, was working hard to make sure that it effectively communicated on how the vaccine works and why people should take it.

“We also want to listen to the concerns of Nigeria, understand what those concerns are and help them get a better understanding of how the vaccine works,” he said.

Earlier, the Sultan of Sokoto, Mr Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, who reiterated that COVID-19 was real, urged Nigerians to abide by all the established protocols to avoid contracting the virus.

The Sultan, who is also the President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), urged Muslim scholars and Imams to intensify efforts at educating their followers.

According to him, followers are to be educated on the risk factors associated with COVID-19 and the importance of accepting the vaccine.

The programme, organised by NSCIA, had in attendance the Emir of Keffi, Dr Shehu Yamusa III and the Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar.

The FCT Minister, Mr Muhammad Bello, represented by Dr Mohammed Kawu, acting Secretary, FCT Health and Human Services Secretariat was also present.

Ahmed Rahma is a journalist with great interest in arts and craft. She is also a foodie who loves new ideas. She loves to travel and would love to visit other African countries someday. She is a sucker for historical movies and afrobeat.

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COVID-19: Ghana Receives First Covax Delivery

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Ghana Covax Delivery

By Ahmed Rahma

Ghana on Wednesday, February 24, 2021, became the first country on the African continent to receive 600,000 AstraZeneca/Oxford doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

The vaccines were acquired from the World Health Organisation (WHO) through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX), a humanitarian vaccine distribution mechanism.

The arrival represents the start of a massive COVID-19 vaccination campaign encompassing 20 African countries.

In a joint statement, WHO Ghana representative, Mr Francis Kasolo, and UNICEF Ghana representative, Anne-Claire Dufay, said, “This is a momentous occasion, as the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines into Ghana is critical in bringing the pandemic to an end.”

It was stated that the 600,000 Covax-sponsored vaccines are part of an initial tranche of deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine coming from the Serum Institute of India.

The Covax initiative aims to deliver almost 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines in 2021.

“The shipments also represent the beginning of what should be the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history,’’ Kasolo and Dufay said.

“As health workers and other front-line staff are vaccinated, we will be able to gradually see a return to normalcy,’’ the two representatives added.

According to the Minister of Information of the country, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, Ghana is planning to begin its vaccination campaign on March 2.

He said health workers, people older than 60 years, people with underlying health conditions as well as essential workers and teachers will be first to be immunised.

So far, less than two dozen African countries have started COVID-19 vaccination, according to the WHO.

Africa has recorded more than 3.8 million COVID-19 cases, 3.5 per cent of all reported cases worldwide, and more than 102,000 deaths, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control.

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Lagos Unveils App, USSD Codes to Detect Fake COVID-19 Tests

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COVID-19 Test

By Adedapo Adesanya

As part of efforts to curb the proliferation of false COVID-19 PCR test results, the Lagos State Government has rolled out a verification platform to validate the authenticity of COVID-19 PCR tests done within the Private Laboratory Consortium and all State Public laboratories for outbound flights.

In a statement, the state government stated that the platform can be accessed through an app and also the use of USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data-codes).

“The Lagos State COVID-19 Result Verification App can be downloaded through Google Store, Apple Store or directly through the internet, using the link https://appsenjoy.com/ZZXaP.

“It will utilise the laboratory reference number to verify the COVID-19 PCR test, validating the result real-time and passengers can download their result sheets, which can be shown to anyone requiring it.

‘’The app version can be used and accessed within and outside of Nigeria but unlike the USSD, does not require a Nigerian Telecommunications Network. It is available once it is downloaded and the internet is available. It is noteworthy to mention that verification through the app is free at all times,” the statement said.

Giving further details on the USSD option, it noted that it can be accessed on all networks in Nigeria by dialling *35131*19# on the 9mobile network and *55500*19# on all other networks and following the onscreen prompts to verify results.

The state also made provisions for the option to be retrieved outside of Nigeria as long as the mobile line is on a Nigerian telecommunications network.

It said that the first 30,000 result verification will be free, courtesy of the Lagos State Government with subsequent verification expected to attract N50 per usage for the user/client.

‘’The process can be used by all clients who require the validation of COVID-19 PCR results, such as Airports, Airlines, Work-related processes and passengers themselves.

“The Lagos State Government would also be placing personnel at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport to assist in the verification process of the COVID-19 PCR results for all outbound passengers,” it disclosed.

The Lagos State Government then issued a stern warning, cautioning that anyone caught in this illegal practice will be prosecuted, adding that it will continue to strengthen its response against this pandemic to protect the lives and livelihood of all Lagosians and residents.

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COVID-19: Kano Begins Home-Based Care Scheme

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By Adedapo Adesanya

The Kano State Government, through its COVID-19 taskforce technical committee, has introduced a home-based care program to reach people in remote areas as part of efforts to curtail the spread of the pandemic.

This was made known in a statement from the state Primary Health Care Management Board and signed by its Information Officer, Mr Maikudi Marafa, on Saturday.

According to the state Commissioner of Health, Dr Aminu Tsanyawa, who launched the program on Saturday, efforts have been made to curtail the second wave of the pandemic.

The Commissioner stressed that health personnel had been trained and provided with motorcycles and medications to reach hard to reach areas, with a view to rendering home care health emergency services.

“Dr Tsanyawa charged the health workers mandated with the task, to be more committed to the discharge of their assignment,” the statement said.

The statement further revealed that the State Coordinator of the task force committee, and also the Executive Secretary State Primary Health care Management Board, Dr Tijjani Hussain, said that the scheme would use community target sampling.

Dr Hussaini also highlighted that the program was aimed at rendering emergency services to people in hard to reach communities of the state.

He commended the state government for its support to the task force committee, in its effort towards eradicating the pandemic in the state, the statement noted.

The statement further disclosed that Dr Hussaini has appealed to the people in the state to give all the necessary support and cooperation to the health personnel, to achieve the goals of the programme.

Kano has the ninth highest prevalent rate of the disease with 3,646 cases recorded since with 3,342 recoveries and 100 deaths.

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Senate Moves to Block Medical Tourism

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By Adedapo Adesanya

The Senate has moved to block revenue leakages from medical tourism by coming up with a bill aimed to reduce the number of Nigerians travelling abroad for medical care.

In a bill titled Federal Medical Centres (Establishment) Bill, 2021 sponsored by Mrs Aishatu Ahmed (APC, Adamawa Central), on Thursday, the upper chamber of the parliament moved to effect structures that will stop the trend.

Leading debate on the bill, Mrs Ahmed said the absence of a legal framework for the regulation, development and management of Federal Medical Centers, which were established to render health services, was responsible for hindering the provision of intensive, effective and efficient health care services to the people of Nigeria.

According to the lawmaker, “this has led to a number of challenges in the health sector including but not limited to under-funding, weak facilities and infrastructure, poor motivation of health workers, low budget, weak accountability, conflicts with the political structure of the states and industrial strikes which has led to inadequacies, shortcomings and weaknesses which hinder effective health care delivery services.”

She noted that the passage of the bill will “reduce the number of Nigerians who have to go to other countries for medical care.”

The lawmaker lamented that “an average of 20,000 Nigerians travel to India each year for medical assistance due to the absence of a solid healthcare system at home.”

Senator Ahmed further noted that the piece of legislation would also sufficiently address remuneration of the employees of the Medical Centers which in turn would check the exodus of doctors and nurses to other countries.

“Seventy-seven per cent of black doctors in the US are Nigerians and there is rarely any top medical institution in the US or Europe where you don’t find Nigerians managing at the top level.

“Hardly a year passes without a major national strike by nurses, doctors, or health consultants. The major reasons for these strikes are poor salaries and lack of government investment in the health sector,” she said.

Citing a report of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, Mrs Ahmed stressed that the bill would “improve on the persistent rate of avoidable deaths of all Nigerians.”

“A recent UNICEF report has it that preventable or treatable diseases such as malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea, measles and HIV/AIDS account for more than 70 per cent of the estimated one million under-five deaths in Nigeria,” she said.

She added that with the right data, Nigeria would witness improvements in the health information system, regular and sustainable population and health-facility-based surveys; as well as have a centralized management of the many challenges of the 23 Federal Medical Centers in the country.

Contributing to the debate, Mr Yahaya Oloriegbe (APC, Kwara Central) said Federal Medical Centres were incapacitated as a result of the absence of legal backing establishing them and insufficient funding.

“We have about twenty-three Federal Medical Centres that were established across the country, but without legal backing.

“The consequence of such is that there are, what I will call policy somersault as regards the operations of these centres.

“You see some of the centres that have enough facilities and manpower to even be termed a Teaching Hospital, but because the legal framework did not state the standard, in terms of infrastructures, manpower and services, they remain like that, and it becomes at the whims and caprices of the policymakers in the Federal Ministry of Health.

“The consequences in terms of funding allocation, Federal Medical Centres receive less fund compared to Teaching Hospitals,” the lawmaker said.

On his part, Mr Ibn Na’Allah said the bill was timely as it seeks “to ensure that all institutions of government are governed by law.”

“We cannot continue to operate a democracy where public funds are disbursed to institutions that are not recognized by law. That is not right,” Mr Na’Allah added.

The bill, after scaling second reading, was referred to the Committee on Health by the Senate President, Mr Ahmad Lawan, for further legislative work.

The committee, which is chaired by Mr Oloriegbe, is expected to report back in four weeks.

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Pfizer/BioNTech Vaccine Neutralises S/African COVID-19 Strain

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South Africa GDP

By Ahmed Rahma

The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine developed by German firm, BioNTech, in partnership with Pfizer has been found to neutralise the South African variant of coronavirus, but with considerably fewer antibodies.

According to an in-vitro study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the neutralisation rate for the more infectious strain was weaker by approximately two thirds.

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch said it was unclear what effect that would have on the efficacy of the vaccine, since other factors were also key to the body’s immune response, such as the production of so-called T-cells.

“There is no clinical evidence to date that the South African variant virus escapes vaccine-elicited protection from COVID-19 in vaccinated people,” Pfizer and BioNTech said in a joint statement on Thursday.

However, the companies added that they were “taking the necessary steps, making the right investments, and engaging in the appropriate conversations with regulators” to adapt their mRNA vaccine if a strain emerged that made it significantly less effective.

Recall that recently, the South African government suspended the use of AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine on its citizens over an issue concerning the protection of users.

About a million doses of the vaccine from the United Kingdom had already been delivered to the former apartheid country by the manufacturer.

However, South Africa claimed test results showed that the vaccine did not protect clinical-trial participants from mild or moderate illness caused by the more contagious COVID-19 virus variant ( B.1.351) that was first seen there.

It was not clear from the studies whether the vaccine protected against severe disease from the B.1.351 variant.

The clinical trial participants, who were evaluated, were relatively young and unlikely to become severely ill, making it impossible for the scientists to determine if the variant interfered with the vaccine’s ability to protect against severe COVID-19, hospitalisations or deaths.

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COVID-19: NAFDAC Authorises Use of AstraZeneca in Nigeria

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NAFDAC

By Ahmed Rahma

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has approved the use of Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria.

The agency approved the use of the jab in the country on Thursday days after the World Health Organisation (WHO) approved it for emergency use.

In a press briefing, NAFDAC said it got the dossier of the vaccine a week ago and its safety committee went to work immediately to evaluate its safety and efficacy for Nigerians.

Recall that a week ago, the government of South Africa suspended the use of AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine on its citizens over an issue concerning the protection of users.

About a million doses of the vaccine from the United Kingdom had already been delivered to the former apartheid country by the manufacturer.

However, South Africa claimed test results showed that the vaccine did not protect clinical-trial participants from mild or moderate illness caused by the more contagious COVID-19 virus variant ( B.1.351) that was first seen there.

It was not clear from the studies whether the vaccine protected against severe disease from the B.1.351 variant.

The clinical trial participants, who were evaluated, were relatively young and unlikely to become severely ill, making it impossible for the scientists to determine if the variant interfered with the vaccine’s ability to protect against severe COVID-19, hospitalisations or deaths.

Based on the immune responses detected in blood samples of people who were given the vaccine, the scientists said they believed that the vaccine could yet protect against more severe cases.

South African health officials said they will consider resuming use of the vaccine if further studies show that it could yet protect against more severe cases.

The Oxford–AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, codenamed AZD1222, is a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca given by intramuscular injection, using as a vector the modified chimpanzee adenovirus ChAdOx1.

According to research, one dosing regimen showed 90 per cent efficacy when a half-dose was followed by a full-dose after at least one month, based on mixed trials with no participants over 55 years old. Another dosing regimen showed 62 per cent efficacy when given as two full doses separated by at least one month.

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