By Aduragbemi Omiyale
The United Kingdom has donated 699,760 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to Nigeria to allow the country to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
The vaccines, received on Tuesday, August 17, 2021, were given to Nigeria through the COVAX initiative, bringing the total number of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca doses delivered to the nation through COVAX or government agreements to over 4.6 million.
COVAX is a global initiative co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi (the Vaccines Alliance) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), which works with governments and manufacturers to accelerate the development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines around the world.
“This vaccine will be administered as a second dose for those who have received their first dose of the vaccine during the first phase of the vaccine roll-out.
“I, therefore, enjoin all those who have received AstraZeneca as the first dose to visit the nearest vaccination site to receive the second dose to be assured of full protection.
“We assure Nigerians that the vaccines are safe, effective and can protect against COVID-19,” Mr Faisal Shuaib, the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, a parastatal or Federal Ministry of Health, Nigeria, stated.
He emphasised that, “The WHO does not approve the mixing of different brands of COVID-19 vaccines, except for the guidance that has been provided recently that one can mix the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccine.”
“In Nigeria, we have not started that process because we do not have the Pfizer vaccines yet. Right now, the guidance is that if you take Moderna as your first dose, you should take it as your second dose, and if you take AstraZeneca as your first dose, you should also take it as your second dose,” the medical expert said.
“I, therefore, want to urge all persons from 18 years above, who are due for the second dose of the AstraZeneca to visit the vaccination sites, and encourage friends, families, and neighbours to do the same to ensure full protection from the virus,” he added.
The Country President for the African Region, AstraZeneca, Barbara Nel, while speaking, stated that, “I was delighted to see the arrival of a further 699,760 doses of the COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, today. This donation from the UK will bolster Nigeria’s vaccination programme and is wonderful news for its people.”
“Today’s arrival demonstrates the value of governments, industry and others working together to address our continent’s urgent needs to access vaccines. In this regard, AstraZeneca’s commitment to Africa remains steadfast,” Nel added.
Meanwhile, AstraZeneca has expressed its commitment to supplying the vaccine broadly and equitably around the world at no profit during the pandemic period.
The supply of the vaccine is estimated to have helped save tens of thousands of lives and to have significantly reduced hospitalisations.
AstraZeneca and its partners have released for supply one billion doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to more than 170 countries, including more than 100 million doses which have been delivered to 129 countries through COVAX.
Oyo Assures Residents of COVID-19 Vaccine Efficacy, Safety
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Residents of Oyo State have been assured of the efficacy and safety of the COVID-19 vaccines, urging them to take the jab to keep the state safe from the virus.
Last week, the state government, through the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, collaborated with UNICEF to create awareness on the COVID-19 vaccine (COVAX) among residents in the state.
The UNICEF C4D Specialists, Akure Office, Mrs Aderonke Akinola-Akinwole, stated that there was the need to educate and clear all doubts about the efficacy and safety of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine by the people of the state especially those living at the grassroots.
According to her, media practitioners have a huge role to play in demystifying misconceptions and rumours about COVAX in the grassroots.
She dismissed rumours that the vaccine causes early death, sterility or that it is a scam, adding that residents should shun all unfounded assumptions about the vaccine.
The UNICEF representative further explained that the vaccine is safe, effective and free of charge, as it helps reduce the effects of COVID-19 if contracted at all after the complete vaccination.
Earlier, the Director of UNICEF Programs in the ministry, Mr Rotimi Babalola, in his welcome address stated that the meeting with media practitioners and information officers from all the 33 LGA’s is important at this time, due to the outbreak of the Delta variant of COVID-19.
He noted that the Delta variant of the pandemic is deadlier than the previous COVID-19 hence the need to raise awareness among citizens who may have let down their guards concerning the COVID-19 protocols.
Mr Babalola stressed that the vaccine is available at primary health care centres in the state at no cost to prevent the spread of the virus especially at the time that school’s resumption is in the offing.
Court Orders Resident Doctors to Suspend Strike
By Sodeinde Temidayo David
**As NARD Appeals Ruling
The National Industrial Court of Nigeria has ordered the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) to suspend their strike action and go back to work immediately, pending the determination of the substantive suit.
The order followed a suit filed by the federal government to challenge the legality of the industrial action, which commenced August 2.
Justice Bashar Alkali, while ruling on the matter on Friday, also asked all parties to return to the negotiating table.
Counsel to the federal government, Mr Tochukwu Maduka, alongside the Federal Ministry of Health, noted that resident doctors embarked on the strike action, without proper notice as provided by the extant strike laws.
According to Mr Maduka, resident doctors are persons who provide essential services and cannot embark on strike as continuing to do so will pile hardship on citizens.
He also prayed the court to compel the members of NARD nationwide to return to their duty posts, pending the determination of the substantive suit.
Opposing this, the counsel to the resident doctors, Mr Femi Aborishade, urged the court to discountenance their application, arguing that the life of a medical doctor was not less useful than the life of an average human being.
He further pointed out that justice must be balanced, not just to the government, but also to the doctors who are the field marshals in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier, both parties had told the vacation judge, Mr Alkali, at the industrial court on September 15 that they were set to negotiate and give the court an update by Friday.
But the process of negotiation and possible settlement failed.
Speaking shortly after the court ruling, however, the counsel to the doctors said he would advise them accordingly and show them other options of appeal, but they would not disobey court orders.
Meanwhile, the latest reports indicated that the doctors have filed an appeal to upturn today’s ruling, emphasising that they were not given a fair hearing. The association directed its members to continue with the industrial action.
COVID-19: Multilateral Agencies Fear Inability to Reach 40% Vaccine Target
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Multilateral Leaders Task Force, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB) Group, World Health Organization (WHO) and World Trade Organization (WTO), have expressed concern that without urgent steps, the world may not achieve the end-2021 target of vaccinating at least 40 per cent of the population in all countries which is a critical milestone to end the pandemic and for global economic recovery.
The Task Force made its position known at a meeting with the CEOs of leading vaccine manufacturing companies to discuss strategies to improve the access to COVID-19 vaccines, especially in low- and lower-middle-income countries and in Africa.
At the onset of the novel pandemic, the task force joined forces to accelerate access to COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics by leveraging multilateral finance and trade solutions, particularly for low- and middle-income countries, with the aim to achieve a 40 per cent vaccine target in every country by the end of 2021, and at least, 60 per cent by mid-2022.
In a statement, the Task Force members noted that despite adequate total global vaccine production in the aggregate, the doses are not reaching low- and lower-middle-income countries in sufficient amounts, resulting in a crisis of vaccine inequity.
The Task Force, therefore, encouraged countries that have contracted high amounts of vaccine doses, and vaccine manufacturers, to come together in good faith to urgently accelerate COVID-19 vaccine supplies to COVAX and AVAT, two multilateral mechanisms that are crucial for equitable distribution of vaccines.
The group’s members welcomed the willingness of the CEOs to work collectively with them to end vaccine inequity and their readiness to form a technical working group with the Task Force to exchange and coordinate information on vaccine production and deliveries.
They, however, stressed that if the 40 per cent coverage threshold is to be reached in all countries by the end of 2021, countries with high vaccination rates that have collectively pre-purchased over two billion doses in excess of what is required to fully vaccinate their populations, should, as a matter of urgency, “swap their near-term delivery schedules with COVAX and AVAT; fulfil their dose donation pledges with unearmarked upfront deliveries to COVAX.”
They also asked that these countries release vaccine companies from options and contracts so those doses can be delivered to people in low- and lower-middle-income countries and adding that vaccine manufacturers should prioritize and fulfil their contracts to COVAX and AVAT.
The Task Force advocated for the need to ensure that doses reach countries that need them the most, particularly low- and lower-middle-income countries.
It, therefore, called on vaccine manufacturers to share details on month-by-month delivery schedules for all vaccine shipments, especially for COVAX and AVAT.
In its remarks, WHO emphasized its call for a moratorium on booster doses until the end of 2021, with the exception of the immune-compromised, to help optimize supply to low-income countries.
The Task Force also called on all countries to urgently address export restrictions, high tariffs and customs bottlenecks on COVID-19 vaccines and the raw materials and supplies required for the production and timely distribution of vaccines.
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