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Relief for UK as govt okays Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

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The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use in the UK, with the first doses due to be given on Monday amid rising coronavirus cases.

According to BBC, the UK has ordered 100 million doses – enough to vaccinate 50 million people.

This would cover the entire population, when combined with the full order of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, Health Secretary. Matthew Hancock, said.

The new vaccine approval comes after Public Health England said the country was facing “unprecedented” levels of infections, and health officials in parts of Wales, Scotland and the south of England voiced concerns about the increasing pressure on the NHS.

Millions more people in England are expected to be placed under the toughest tier four restrictions.

On Tuesday, 53,135 new COVID cases were recorded in the UK – the highest single day rise since mass testing began – as well as 414 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the vaccine development “a triumph” for British science, adding, “We will now move to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible.”

And England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty praised the “considerable collective effort that has brought us to this point”.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Hancock said it marked a “significant moment” in the fight against the virus, adding that “2021 can be a year of hope and recovery because we can see our way out of the pandemic”.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was designed in the first months of 2020, tested on the first volunteer in April, and has since been through large-scale clinical trials involving thousands of people.

It is the second jab to be approved in the UK after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was given the go-ahead in December.

Unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, which needs ultra cold storage at -70C, the Oxford-AstraZeneca can be stored in a standard fridge so will be easier to deliver to care homes and GP surgeries.

AstraZeneca’s chief executive Pascal Soriot told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the company will “progressively ramp up” the vaccination programme, and will be able to deliver up to two million doses a week.

More than 600,000 people in the UK have been vaccinated since Margaret Keenan became the first in the world to be given it outside of a clinical trial.

The approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine marks a major turning point in the pandemic.

It will lead to a massive expansion in the UK immunisation campaign aimed at getting life back to normal.

The shift to giving as many people as possible the first doses of either approved vaccine effectively doubles the number of people given some protection.

The second dose, which gives maximum protection, will come up to three months later.

However, the next couple of months still look bleak.

Health officials have spoken of “unprecedented” levels of infection and some hospitals are struggling with the number of patients.

Prof Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the vaccine approval was an “astonishing achievement” in science and clinical research.

But he said there was still “more work to do”, warning: “It’s not over yet.”

“Our colleagues in hospital are facing some real horrors caused by this virus. The next steps are critical,” he said.

Meanwhile, the health secretary has said that more areas will be placed under England’s toughest tier four – “stay at home” – restrictions.

Hancock will set out further details of the changes in the House of Commons later.

He has urged people to “stay in this new year” regardless of what tier their local area is under – in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson would also be making a statement later about the return of schools in England in January, Hancock said.

 

 

 

COVID-19

US to halt J&J COVID vaccine after blood clotting cases

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The United States federal health agencies on Tuesday recommended suspending the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

The development comes after six recipients of the vaccine — all women– developed a “severe type of blood clot”.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said they would stop using the vaccine at federal sites and asked states to do so as well while they investigate safety issues.

The agencies, in a joint statement, said they were “reviewing data involving six reported US cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the vaccine. Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare”.

“Treatment of this specific type of blood clot is different from the treatment that might typically be administered,” they said.

“CDC will convene a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on Wednesday to further review these cases and assess their potential significance. FDA will review that analysis as it also investigates these cases.

“Until that process is complete, we are recommending this pause. This is important to ensure that the health care provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot.”

It is the third COVID-19 vaccine that has received FDA’s authorisation, and also the first single-dose COVID-19 vaccine available in the US.

About seven million people in the US have received the vaccine.

Similar reports of blood clot development in recipients of the AstraZeneca vaccine made several European countries to suspend use of the product in March.

They have, however, resumed using the vaccine after European Union and British regulators said there was no link between the vaccine and the reported side effects.

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COVID-19: PTF transforms into presidential steering committee, completes task December

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COVID-19: PTF transforms into presidential steering committee, complete task December

President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the transition of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 to the presidential steering committee.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said President Muhamadu Buhari, stated this at a media briefing on Tuesday, adding that the mandate of the PSC would end on December 31.
According to him, the PSC will focus on ensuring effectiveness in the roll-out of the vaccine, and promote policies that will result in the development of the country’s health sector.
“Mr president has considered the report and has approved the following: That the PTF will transition to a presidential steering committee on COVID-19, effective from 1st April, 2021, with a modified mandate to reflect the non-emergent status of COVID-19 as a potentially long-term pandemic,” he said.
“That the structure of the PSC shall reflect the new focus of the response with a targeted approach on vaccine oversight, risk communication, international travel quarantine processes and sub-national engagement; that the tenure of the presidential steering committee shall last till 31st December, 2021.
“The presidential steering committee would maintain the present constitution, functions and strategies of the PTF; be supported by a slim technical and administrative structure.”

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Lagos shuts 430 event centres, night clubs

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The Lagos State Safety Commission says it has shut 430 event centres and night clubs for violating COVID-19 protocols.
Director General at the commission, Lanre Mojola, said at a news conference in Alausa, Ikeja that the commission was saddled with developing safety guidelines for the state’s reopening of economic activities in post COVID-19 lockdown.
“The commission was involved in the enforcement of COVID-19 protocols and this led to the shutting of 30 event centres and 400 clubs across the state,” he added.
On construction safety, the DG said the commission carried out risk assessment and unscheduled safety inspection of construction sites to ensure safety compliance, as well as adherence to COVID-19 protocols, to prevent accidents, incidents, illnesses and loss of lives.
He said the commission issued provisional safety compliance certificates for 90 days and safety compliance certificates thereafter if compliance status was maintained.
Mojola said the enforcement was carried out in 609 construction sites for repeated failure to comply with safety regulations.
He said the annual World Safety Day would hold across the world on April 28 to create awareness, sensitise and educate people on the importance of keeping the workplace safe and free from occupational hazards, accidents, incidents and preventable illnesses.

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