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Excitement as oil prices soar on Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine success

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  • Trump, Biden, Buhari, WHO laud American manufacturer
  • Nigeria may wait longer to get vaccine — PSN

The world reacted with undisguised joy on Monday to Pfizer’s announcement of its COVID-19 vaccine recording 90 per cent success and almost an instantaneous jump in global oil price and stocks.

Oil prices jumped by almost 10 per cent, its biggest daily gain, in more than six months.

Pfizer and BioNTech said Monday that a vaccine they jointly developed was 90 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 infections in ongoing phase three trials.

The message of hope drew applause from the world audience, bringing the United States President, Donald Trump, and the President-elect, Joe Biden, to their first convergence in recent months, as both congratulated Pfizer on its scientific trial.

President Muhammadu Buhari also welcomed the development and expressed the hope that the vaccine would be available for all when it finally hit the market.

America’s Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, promised to make 50 million doses of the vaccine available before the end of the year.

It also said it would produce 1.3 billion doses of the vaccine for 650 million people by the end of 2021.

The Chief Executive Officer, BioNTech, Ugur Sahin, said, “With effectiveness for the first vaccines previously expected to be in the range of 60 per cent to seven per cent, more than 90 per cent is extraordinary. It shows that COVID-19 can be controlled. At the end of the day, it’s really a victory of science.

“The data do have limits. For now, a few details on the vaccine’s efficacy are available. It is not known how well the shot works in key subgroups, such as the elderly. Those analyses haven’t been conducted. And it isn’t known whether the vaccine prevents severe disease, as none of the participants who got COVID-19 in this round of analysis had severe cases.”

While the global benchmark, Brent crude, was up $3.37, or 8.5 per cent, to $42.82 a barrel, the US West Texas Intermediate crude was up $3.54, or 9.5 per cent at $40.68.

Both contracts rose by more than $4 earlier in the session.

Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, also said the OPEC+ deal on oil output cuts could be adjusted if there was consensus among members of the group.

The Saudi minister was commenting after being asked whether OPEC+ – which groups OPEC states, Russia and other producers – would stick to existing cuts of 7.7 million barrels per day (bpd) rather than easing them to 5.7 million bpd from January.

Key members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) are wary of the US.

Reacting to the vaccine discovery, Trump on his Twitter page, said, “Stock market up big. Vaccine coming soon. The report shows 90 per cent effectiveness. Such great news.”

Biden, who inaugurated a COVID-19 taskforce Monday said, “I congratulate the brilliant women and men who helped produce this breakthrough and to give us such cause for hope.”

But he cautioned it is “important to understand that the end of the battle against COVID-19 is still months away.”

The president-elect said the announcement was “part of a previously announced timeline by industry officials” and that it does not alter the fact that “Americans will have to rely on masking, distancing, contact tracing, hand washing, and other measures to keep themselves safe well into next year.”

In Nigeria, President Buhari Monday night hailed the delivery of the first COVID-19 vaccine after a period of a successful trial.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, in a statement, said the President, in his reaction to the news that the vaccine had completed 90 per cent trial, described the feat as a milestone in medical advancement.

The statement read, “President Muhammadu Buhari has welcomed the arrival of first effective coronavirus vaccine after a successful human trial phase.

“Reacting to the news that the vaccine has recorded 90 per cent effectiveness against the disease, the president described the development as a major milestone in medical advancement but warned that the world must unite in facilitating the equitable access and distribution of these vaccines to protect people in all countries.

“President Buhari reiterated his earlier call that ‘only a people’s vaccine with equality and solidarity at its core can protect all of humanity and get our societies safely running again. A bold international agreement cannot wait.”

However, renewed European lockdown measures to contain rising COVID-19 cases still appear set to weigh on the outlook for global oil demand, an International Energy Agency (IEA) official said.

Eight months into the worst pandemic in a century, the Pfizer vaccine development represents the most encouraging scientific advancement so far in the battle against COVID-19.

And its preliminary results pave the way for the companies to seek an emergency-use authorisation from regulators if further research shows the shot is also safe.

The vaccine findings are based on an interim analysis conducted after 94 participants, split between those who got a placebo and those who were vaccinated contracted COVID-19.

Pfizer Senior Vice President, Mr. William Gruber, said, “The trial will continue until 164 cases have occurred. If the data hold up and a key safety read-out also looks good, it could mean that the world has a vital new tool to control a pandemic that has killed more than 1.2 million people worldwide. This is about the best news for the world, the United States and for public health. It was better than even the best result we had hoped for.”

The vaccine is being tested in a two-dose regimen. The trial started in July and since most participants only received their second dose much more recently, nobody knows how long any protection will last.

However, the strong reading from the first large-scale trial to post efficacy results holds well for other experimental vaccines, in particular, one being developed by Moderna Inc. that uses similar technology.

Pfizer expects to get two months of safety follow-up data, a key metric required by US regulators before an emergency authorisation is granted in the third week in November.

If those findings raise no problems, Pfizer could apply for authorisation in the US this month.

A rolling review began in Europe last month and Sahin said regulators there were working with BioNTech to “further accelerate the process.”

So far, the trial’s data monitoring committee has identified no serious safety concerns, Pfizer and BioNTech said.

The positive preliminary data mean the US pharma giant and its German partner are on track to be first with a vaccine, after signing advance deals with governments worldwide for hundreds of thousands of doses.

However, Pfizer has found itself drawn into a contentious political debate about how quickly regulators in the US should allow a vaccine to be given to Americans.

President Donald Trump had pushed to have a shot approved before Election Day, but regulators put in place rigorous standards that largely pushed that goal out of reach.

On October 16, Pfizer Chief Executive Officer, Albert Bourla, had said the companies could seek an emergency use authorisation from US regulators by late November if the trial results were to show the shot is safe and effective.

Moderna is considered the next closest vaccine frontrunner. It has said it could get safety and efficacy data from its late-stage trial this month.

Johnson & Johnson, which has a one-shot vaccine using a different technology could get efficacy data from a final-stage trial by the end of this year. AstraZeneca Plc is also working on a vaccine using different technology, with results from studies in the UK and Brazil expected by year-end.

WHO, Canada hail vaccine progress

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Canadian government have hailed Pfizer and BioNTech’s announcement.

While the Director-General of WHO, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, described the news as “encouraging,” the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, said the results were “promising.”

“We welcome the encouraging vaccine news from @Pfizer & @BioNTech Group & salute all scientists & partners around the world who are developing new safe, efficacious tools to beat #COVID19,” WHO’s director-general said in a tweet.

“The world is experiencing unprecedented scientific innovation & collaboration to end the pandemic,” he said.

As of mid-October, the WHO has identified 42 “candidate vaccines” at the stage of clinical trials, up from 11 in mid-June.

President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, who described the development as a success for the world, lamented that Nigerians might have to wait a little longer to have access to the vaccine because the Federal Government failed to make early financial commitments to the companies working on the vaccines.

According to him, even when the vaccine is ready, the companies will first satisfy countries and governments that have put down resources to complement their works.

He said, “There is a possibility that with this vaccine the country will be able to access it like any other country, however, our fear is that it will take time for Nigerian to be able to get the vaccine as you are aware that the American government has put down millions of dollars for the companies.

“All the companies that are producing vaccines would want to supply to those that put their money down to help them complete their work before selling to other countries.

“What is also worst is that the procurement especially in the area of this kind of infectious diseases is through donor funding. We are going to be waiting for those who put their money down. How I wish I am in the ministry of health.

“If I were the President, I will be looking at how we can put our money down like others did, no matter how small. We cannot be waiting until those who participated in the trail are satirised and we will now be getting crumbs.

“It is a good development and it shows that we have got to the point where we can have control over the infection. The vaccine is what is going to help us to control this pandemic.  I think the virus is going to stay with us for a long time just like those other reoccurring viruses like HIV.”

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Buhari signs N983bn supplementary budget into law

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President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday signed the 2021 supplementary appropriation bill of N983 billion into law.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly (House of Representatives), Umar El-yakub, announced this while briefing state house correspondents after the signing.
He said a total sum of the supplementary budget assented to is N982,729,695,343, adding that the supplementary budget would be largely focused on funding security and health concerns.
The assent by the President is coming a month after the Federal Executive Council approved the supplementary budget for the year 2021.
Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, had said the budget contained an aggregate sum N770.60 billion to further enhance the capacity of the defense and the security agencies to address current and emerging security challenges in our country.
Ahmed said a total of N83.56 billion expenditure is set aside in the budget for COVID-19 vaccine programme, covering 30 million vaccines from Johnson and Johnson and the logistics costs related to the deployment of the vaccines.
The budget also has N40 billion provision to take care of the needs for allowances to the health, education sectors, and other wage-related issues.
Ahmed had added that the supplementary also had N1.69 billion for the Nigeria Comprehensive AIDS programme.

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Gas-powered mass transit buses set for operation in Nigeria

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A revolutionary mass transit operation using ECO-Green buses is soon to be introduced in some Nigerian city centres.
The buses already being used in major cities of the world are powered by flare gas recovered compressed natural gas (CNG), which is usually flared in the Niger Delta, Nigeria and causing environmental pollution and crisis in the region.
Chief Executive Officer of Austrian Technologies Nigeria Limited, Johann Rieger, said the ECO-green buses had been built on European standards for critical climate and infrastructure as in Nigeria.
According to him, the buses are the safest and most economic public mass transit vehicles that can reduce carbon footprints by 95 per cent and operating cost by 30 per cent.
Specifically, he said the buses, coming with a lifespan of at least 15 years, had been equipped with engines of higher emission standards (Euro 5) with no toxic, smog or smoke, guaranteeing reduced noise and lower fuel costs. In Malaysia, those buses run 15 years with over 90% average uptime.
Rieger also said the project would guarantee local capacity building of the buses through extensive transfer of the technology and know-how within a short time of the entire value chain.
Indeed, he said, “Up to 70 per cent of all components of the eco-green buses should be manufactured or assembled locally within five years of operation including the first green engine.”

He said the project would come with uniquely designed and efficient drivers’ safety training that would allow safe increase of passengers’ capacity by 30 per cent in accordance with international standards of public transport.

He said the vehicle had been built with the highest operational standards and expected to save the operator a minimum of $25,000 in comparison to any other large capacity bus.

He noted that six eco-green buses would do the job of at least 10 biggest BRT buses currently being operated in Nigeria and by switching over to locally available natural gas, he said at least $20,000 of foreign exchange is also saved.

He noted that driving with natural gas is the most environmentally friendly solution wherever this green fuel is available. They partnered already with local CNG suppliers who are ready to invest and guarantee 24/7 availability of the gas directly inside the bus depot of operators anywhere in the country.

About 90 per cent uptime, and maximum efficiency and transparency would be guaranteed through permanent real-time monitoring of each bus by eco- telematics and extended after-sale service with 24/7 spare parts availability and directly including service and wear parts for the first two years, said Rieger.

Some of the unique features of an ECO-green bus are given as roof mounted CNG cylinder with up to 500km range and gas leakage detection system and tyre pressure monitoring system.
The air and surfaces in their buses is permanently and chemical free sanitized by their ECO Viroxx air conditioning system with bipolar ionization.
Others are speed limiter, alcohol test and driver’s fatigue detection with driver’s biometric identification, CCTV camera system that can be directly integrated into the city surveillance system reverse camera; handicapped ramp and wheelchair area.

Rieger listed some of the technical features of the bus as electronic dashboard with extended eco-telematics system, real time driver’s feedback on safety and economic driving; on board video education in cooperation with UNICEF.
The bus is said to come on the same bus platform as 8.7m for 60 passengers; 10.5m for 80 passengers, 12m for 100 people and 18m accommodating 160 passengers.

 

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Autochek, Appzone collaborate on flexible vehicle finance solution

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Autochek automotive technology company has entered into a partnership with Appzone Group, a leading FinTech firm, to provide Nigerians with quick and flexible access to car financing, including those in the rural areas.
The partnership, according to the two firms, will see the Autochek platform integrating with Appzone’s proprietary digital core banking service, BankOne, in facilitating access to credit from over 400 microfinance institutions for people across the country.
Speaking at the official signing event, Chief Technology Officer at Autochek, Chetan Seth, said, “Obtaining access to financing in Nigeria is a tedious process. At Autochek, we are committed to providing consumers with seamless access to credit in order for them to own their vehicles. With technology, we are able to provide vehicle financing at sca d this will be accelerated even further by integrating with le, an Appzone’s network.
“We are very much customer-focused and we operate in an on-demand economy, we therefore recognise the need to efficiently provide a plethora of options for customers to access loans. Our partnership with Appzone will enable us to further increase their options through access to the microfinance banks currently available on their platform.”

Mr Mudiaga Umukoro, the CEO of Appzone Core, a subsidiary company of Appzone Group said, “BankOne is our flagship product and Africa’s foremost banking-as-a platform (BaaP) solution. Over the last 10 years, we have focused on digitizing the microfinance sector. We have enabled over 400 microfinance institutions spread across the entire country, with the capability for fully-digital banking operations. And now through our partnership with Autochek, these institutions available can now provide quick digital loans to prospective car owners anywhere in Nigeria.
“What this ensures is a win-win approach as MFBs can target more customers as well as increase revenue through loan offerings, whilst customers across the country, either in urban or remote areas, are more easily empowered with business and/or personal vehicles with little hassle.”
Some details about the new auto loan arrangement provided in a statement indicate that the credit sourcing process starts with the listing of prequalified vehicles from the dealers on Autochek’s platform.
Potential customers have the opportunity to select their choice from a pool of cars that have gone through a 150 point inspection process carried out by Autochek’s accredited technical experts.
The customers are then able to submit their loan applications digitally through the autochek website to over 400 financial partners currently available on Appzone’s BankOne network. Within 24 hours, customers receive multiple offers and have the option to select their most preferred financial partner.
Appzone transitions all accepted loan applications into the BankOne’s proprietary credit administration module which automatically enables the account opening, underwriting and eventual disbursement.
The customer is now able to get a transparent step-by-step update throughout the whole process.

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