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UK starts mass COVID vaccination programme today

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Britain on Tuesday recorded a turning point in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, as it began the biggest vaccination programme in the country’s history with a new COVID-19 jab.

The first patients in line on what has been dubbed “V-Day” — the over-80s, care home workers and at-risk frontline health and social care staff — will roll up their sleeves for an initial dose from early morning.

They will then require a second jab in 21 days’ time.

Last week Britain became the first country to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, raising hopes of a breakthrough in the pandemic, which has killed more than 1.5 million worldwide.

Britain has been one of the worst-affected countries in the world, with more than 61,000 deaths in the outbreak from 1.6 million cases.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who spent days in intensive care with Covid-19 earlier this year, called it a “huge step forward in the UK’s fight against coronavirus”.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who has offered to have the jab on live television to allay public fears, said the roll-out was a “key moment” that would protect the most vulnerable.

The head of the state-run National Health Service in England, Simon Stevens, said it was a “decisive turning point” against the “greatest health challenge” since the NHS was founded in 1948.

Regulatory approval for the vaccine was given last Wednesday, sparking a race against time to prepare scores of vaccination centres across the country.

The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the jab — enough to vaccinate 20 million people — with 800,000 in the first batch.

Up to four million doses are expected by the end of December.

Queen could lead way

The mass vaccination drive is a coordinated response by all four nations of the UK — England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — which normally set their own health policies.

The public has been largely favourable to the rapid approval of the vaccine, but ministers and health professionals are aware they still need to combat mistrust.

 

The independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency maintains that no corners were cut and its assessment and approval procedures met stringent international norms.

NHS England said thousands had already been given the jab during trials with no serious side effects.

Nevertheless, it has been reported Queen Elizabeth II, who at 94 is among those first in the line for the vaccination because of her age, could front a public awareness campaign urging compliance.

The government said it will hand out vaccine cards to remind people to get the booster after three weeks, but insisted it was not introducing immunity certificates.

The chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland said the vaccine will as a result only have a “marginal impact” on hospital numbers over the winter months.

Johnson called for patience and urged the public to stick to strict social distancing guidelines to prevent a spike in cases, particular as rules are relaxed over Christmas.

 

Health officials have already run into a logistical headache about how to administer the vaccine to elderly or infirm care home residents.

The vaccine needs to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius (-94 Fahrenheit), leaving hospitals and other medical hubs as the only places able to deal with such ultra-low temperatures.

With the Pfizer-BioNTech drug made in Belgium, concerns have also been raised about potential disruption to supply when Britain leaves the European Union’s single market and customs union.

 

But the UK government said the military is on stand-by to air-lift the vaccine if there is any border disruption from January 1.

The bulk of Britain’s vaccine requirements are expected to be met by a jab developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, which is awaiting regulatory approval.

The government has ordered an initial 100 million doses of the drug, which is cheaper to manufacture, and easier to store and transport using conventional fridges.

-AFP

Health

86% of COVID-19 infections in Africa go unnoticed – WHO

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About 86 per cent of all coronavirus infections in Africa go unnoticed, the World Health Organization reported on Thursday.

The WHO puts the number of all infections on the continent at 59 million, over seven times more than the eight million reported cases.

It said: “The high number of unreported cases can be explained by the fact that health facilities have so far focused on testing people. People with symptoms of the disease has led to extensive under-reporting.”

Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said with limited testing, the continent is flying blind in far too many communities.

“By comparison, the United States, with about a third of the population, had conducted more than 550 million tests.

“While Britain, with less than 10 per cent of Africa’s population, had conducted more than 280 million tests.”

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In total, more than 8.4 million coronavirus cases have been recorded in Africa, including 214,000 deaths.

According to WHO data, less than half of the African countries that received vaccines have fully vaccinated an average of about two per cent of their population.

dpa/NAN. “By comparison, the United States, with about a third of the population, had conducted more than 550 million tests.

“While Britain, with less than 10 per cent of Africa’s population, had conducted more than 280 million tests.”

In total, more than 8.4 million coronavirus cases have been recorded in Africa, including 214,000 deaths.

According to WHO data, less than half of the African countries that received vaccines have fully vaccinated an average of about two per cent of their population.

dpa/NAN.

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Entertainment

BBNaija winner, Whitemoney hospitalized in Lagos

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Winner of the 2021 Big Brother Naija, BBNaija, reality TV show, WhiteMoney, has been hospitalized.

 

WhiteMoney was hospitalized on Tuesday morning.

 

Although the cause of his illness was not revealed, he was sighted on drips.

 

Alongside an Instagram video of the 29-year old receiving treatment was a caption that read, ”Good morning, break in transmission. We will be back shortly.”

BBNaija finalists have been going for media rounds since their exit from the house. His tight schedule may be responsible for his breakdown.

 

WhiteMoney emerged winner of the ‘Shine ya Eye edition’ ahead of Liquorose, Pere, Cross, Angel and Emmanuel on the final day of the show.

 

He walked away with N30million in cash and prizes adding up to N60million.

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Health

FG stopped residency payment after strike suspension – NARD

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FRESH crisis may be brewing between the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors and the Federal Government as the association accused the government of already deviating from the understanding reached before it suspended its strike last week.

This was as the association also accused the government of causing confusion among its members and suspending the payment of the Medical Residency Training Funds

The National President of NARD, Dr Dare Ishaya, disclosed this in an interview with The PUNCH in Abuja on Monday.

But the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, said there was no truth in the claim

The PUNCH had reported last week that the association, after interventions by the Nigerian Medical Association, suspended its industrial action with the aim of holding a meeting of the National Executive Committee to review the activities of the Federal Government six weeks after.

The NARD commenced its industrial action on August 2, 2021.

Sources familiar with the matter told our correspondent on Monday that since the association suspended its industrial action, the Federal Government stopped the payment of the medical residency training fund which it commenced before the strike was suspended.

“They paid 20 centres before we suspended the strike and they promised they would pay everything immediately we suspend the strike and the salary arrears.

“But the moment we suspended the strike, till now, we have not heard anything from them. Thirty-four centres have not been paid (medical residency training fund) and salary arrears, even the one for August and September have not been paid,” one of the sources said.

The National President of NARD, Ishaya, confirmed the development.

However, Ngige confirmed the aspect of non-payment of salaries, saying the case was still in court while government was working towards an out-of-court settlement.

He said the striking doctors would not be paid for the months they did not work.

On the residency fund, the minister said the payment was suspended because some individuals who were not resident doctors were paid.

The minister said, “Do you pay somebody who didn’t work in August, September? The truth of the matter is that the August and September salary is a matter that is still in court. So, when we go to court, we will try to see if we can do out-of-court settlement. But for now, nothing like payment.

Punch

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