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FG directs states to halt vaccination halfway

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-Bauchi, Benue comply as AstraZeneca vaccine shortage looms

-Remaining doses will be reserved for second jabs – Minister

The Federal Government has asked all the states administering the COVID-19 vaccine to stop the exercise the moment they use half of the doses allocated to them.

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaibu, asked all the states to suspend vaccination when they reach half of the doses delivered to them.

This implies that a state that was given 100,000 doses would have to halt the vaccine rollout once the doses hit 50,000 in order for those who have received their first jab to be able to complete their vaccination.

The move, it was learnt, had become necessary due to a possible delay in the supply of the next batch of the AstraZeneca vaccines, which could affect the availability of the vaccine for a second jab for those who have taken the first.

The shortage of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the international market is caused by a surge in the demand by the European Union and a new policy by India which manufactures the vaccine. India had said last week that it would prioritise domestic vaccination for its over 1.2 billion citizens, thereby causing a shortage in developing nations like Nigeria.

Confirming the development to one of our correspondents who made an enquiry on the matter, the Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, said states were asked to stop vaccination halfway until more vaccines arrive because it was the smartest thing to do since it is a double-dose vaccine.

Mamora said, “On the issue of stopping at half doses, we thought this is what wisdom dictates because in a situation where we seem to be in short supply, it stands to good reason to ensure that those who have had their first dose should be given the opportunity of having the second dose.

“It is better to have a pool of people who have received full vaccination rather than just do it halfway for everybody, which I think would not be the best in the circumstance. And you are not really covered if you have your full dosage.”

When asked when Nigerians should expect more vaccines, Mamora said he could not say because it is currently a ‘sellers’ market’.

He, however, said Nigeria was already having talks with other parties including Russia, which is producing the Sputnik V vaccine.

The minister stated, “The truth is there is a challenge. However, we are not hopeless. The COVAX facility is not the only one we rely on. There is also AVATT, the regional facility which is the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team. So, we definitely will be looking to AVATT to help increase the initial allocation in the circumstances with what is happening vis-a-vis production and supply from India.

“Both AVATT and COVAX are multilateral facilitators, but we also have bilateral negotiations. For example, the Sputnik is bilateral in the sense that it is government to government. Sputnik is Russian and as soon as we have the dossier and approval from NAFDAC, then we will consider it.”

Mamora stated that the Federal Government might have to increase its budget for vaccines since AstraZeneca, which is the cheapest in the market, is not readily available.

He said, “One of the reasons we settled for AstraZeneca is not just because it is cheap but is as good as the others. They are giving it out at cost value. The challenge is that the initial element in terms of cost projection would have to increase because AstraZeneca is the cheapest. So, we may have to reconsider our initial cost projection. That is the challenge I see.”

The Federal Government had received 3.9 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines through COVAX, a global initiative co-led by the Global Vaccine Alliance, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and World Health Organisation. The initiative was designed to ensure fair and equitable access for every country.

The vaccine arrived in Nigeria on March 2, 2021 while in the second week of March the government began distribution to states, except Kogi, whose governor, Yahaya Bello, had described COVID-19 as glorified malaria.

Persons who opt for AstraZeneca vaccines must take two doses which are usually administered at least two months apart. It was learnt that Ekiti, Bauchi and Kwara states had already administered half of their vaccine supply and had complied with the government’s directive to halt further roll-out.

Meanwhile, the Chairman, Bauchi State Primary Health Care Development Agency and Contacts and Surveillance Sub-Committee Chairman, Bauchi State Task Force on COVID-19, Dr Rilwan Mohammed, told Sunday PUNCH that the Executive Director, NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaibu, wrote to Commissioners for Health in the states to suspend vaccination so that people who had received the first jab could get the second one.

Mohammed stated that Bauchi State was given 89,570 doses but had to stop administering the vaccines immediately after it received the letter having administered about half already. “We have 32,000 coverage but the call-up data is actually 41,000 just that we are still uploading to the national site because of network problems,” he added.

He stated, “There is a shortage of supply of the COVID-19 vaccine, and the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaibu, wrote to all the states that we should suspend vaccination when we reach half of the doses we got.

“The Federal Government realised that within eight to 12 weeks, you must be able to give the second dose but if there is no second dose to give, that means we have wasted the first dose, so they told us to stop if we have reached halfway.

“There is a crisis in the AstraZeneca production. India is having COVID-19 mutation in their country, so they decided to allocate more doses to themselves before exporting it. Secondly, the European Union which initially claimed that the vaccine had some issues has now come back after they found out that the vaccine is okay and they had made a forward request.”

Nevertheless, he explained that the state had set aside a small portion of the vaccine for intending pilgrims because vaccination had become a requirement for those visiting holy cities.

He added, “There are 4,000 Muslim pilgrims, meaning we would need 8,000 doses for them, while there are 170 Christian pilgrims, meaning we would need 340 doses for them, including their staff.

“We have a complaint from the Hajj and Christian commissions and Jerusalem and Saudi authorities have given an order that all those coming for pilgrimage and their staff must show evidence of COVID-19 test and vaccination (first and second doses).”

He said he would write to the Executive Director of NPHCDA to request for vaccines to be administered on the pilgrims.

Mohammed said there had only been 145 reactions – mostly mild – out of the tens of thousands vaccinated in the state so far, noting that the rule that sick persons should not be vaccinated had saved the state from controversies.

He added, “We have only 145 reactions due to COVID-19 vaccine and most of them are mild. Somebody went to our vaccination post in Darazo but unfortunately he was ill, so we told him that one of the conditions was that if you were sick we wouldn’t be able to give you a vaccine. The next day, he died. If we had allowed him to be vaccinated, people would say it was due to COVID-19 vaccination.”

He ruled out the possibility of the state going to look for a vaccine on its own, noting that it was best to use the one already certified by NAFDAC and that there was already a strategic plan for vaccination roll-out in the country.

Asked when the vaccination would resume, he said they had been told to start administering the second dose from May 24 because the vaccine would expire in June, since every batch has its expiry date.

Benue stops vaccination

Meanwhile, the Benue State Government says it has suspended the vaccination exercise, in line with the caution from the Executive Director, NPHCDA.

The state Commissioner for Health, Dr Joseph Ngbea, told one of our correspondents on the telephone on Friday that the state had stopped vaccination, though it did not make a formal announcement.

Ngbea said, “Yes, we have stopped the vaccination of people but we did not announce it, although there are a few people looking to be vaccinated. For example, on Thursday, we still vaccinated one of the former governors of the state who demanded for it. Unlike when we were encouraging people to come out and take the vaccine, we have stopped that.

“We had a meeting with the Executive Director of National Primary Health Care Development Agency who cautioned us to stop giving out the vaccine because of the Indian ban on export of the vaccine.”

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COVID-19: NCDC announces three additional deaths, 513 new cases

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Fourteen states and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, have announced 513 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, according to figures released on Wednesday morning by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC.

The NCDC added that the 513 new cases bring the total number of infections in the country to 202,704.

The additional 513 COVID-19 infections, on Tuesday indicates an increase from the 393 cases reported on Monday.

It added that Lagos State led the chat with 132 news cases, higher than the 86 cases it recorded the previous day.

Amongst other were the FCT (80), Rivers (70), Kaduna (43), Edo (40), Ondo (32), Delta (23), Akwa Ibom(21), Kwara (16), Gombe (12), Anambra (9), Benue (9), Kano (7), Oyo (6), Borno (3), Bayelsa, Kastina and Ogun (2) each and Jigawa (1).

According to it, till date, 202,704 cases have been confirmed, 190,370 cases discharged and 2,664 deaths had been recorded in 36 states and the FCT.

The disease agency said that the country had tested a total of over 2,997,060 million samples from its roughly 200 million population.

It added that a multi-sectoral national emergency operations centre (EOC), activated at Level 2, continued to coordinate the national response activities.

The public health agency disclosed that there were over 8,685 active cases across the country.

Meanwhile, the NCDC noted that the pandemic had challenged the world greatly but had also provided clarity on what the world needed to do to secure its future.

“History will not judge us kindly if we fail to build on the gains of the COVID-19 response.

“We remain committed to strengthening partnerships that will enable us to build back better for national and global security,” it said.

According to it, “I wish to re-emphasise that we must fervently avoid complacency and continue to abide by the given Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions.

“Remember that Nigeria is a well-traversed country and is susceptible to further importation of the virus, especially when there is clear evidence that the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has begun across the continent.

“It is important to emphasise that it is in the interest of public safety and collective well-being of Nigerians that the federal government has made available these vaccines free for all eligible persons,” the NCDC announced.

“Lets make ourselves and loved ones available and get inoculated,” it advised.

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UK Employs 353 Nigerian Doctors In 100 Days

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At least 353 Nigerian doctors have been registered to work in the United Kingdom  in the last 100 days.

Checks on the website of the General Medical Council – the body which licenses and maintains the official register of medical practitioners in the UK – showed that the GMC licensed at least 353 Nigerian-trained doctors between June 10, 2021 and September 20, 2021.

The statistics also showed that between July 24, 2020 and September 21, 2021, about 862 Nigeria trained doctors were licensed in the UK despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, 8, 737 doctors who obtained their degrees in Nigeria currently practise in the UK.

Speaking to one of our correspondents on Tuesday, the Vice-President of the National Association of Resident Doctors, Julian Ojebo, said the rate of migration might double in the coming weeks since doctors were not given the right remuneration.

Ojebo argued that the doctors migrating to Saudi Arabia might even be more than those moving to the UK.

He said it was unfortunate that the government had failed to address the plight of doctors and meet their conditions for calling off the strike which began on August 1, 2021.

Ojebo stated, “If 353 Nigerian doctors have been licensed in the last 100 days, I am sure the figure will double within the next one month. The strike has opened the eyes to the doctors that Nigeria does not care about them.

“I am sure the statistics for those migrating to Saudi Arabia would be higher. I have always said it that remuneration is usually the trigger for migration. It is now worse today due to insecurity and the lack of political will by government appointees to address the issues affecting the health sector.

“I can tell you categorically that some of the issues we are fighting for are matters that should have been addressed since 2014 and we are still protesting in 2021. Like we have always said, whatever you earn in Nigeria, you stand the opportunity of earning three times that amount with better working conditions.”

A poll by NOI in 2018 showed that 88 per cent of Nigerian doctors were considering work opportunities abroad, but experts say the figure may be higher due to the rising insecurity and economic crunch.

Meanwhile, NARD has continued its strike amid rising COVID-19 and cholera infections.

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Pfizer/BioNTech data shows COVID-19 vaccine safe and protective in kids

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Sept 20 (Reuters) – Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) and BioNTech SE said on Monday their COVID-19 vaccine induced a robust immune response in 5 to 11 year olds, and they plan to ask for authorization to use the vaccine in children in that age range in the United States, Europe and elsewhere as soon as possible.

The companies said the vaccine generated an immune response in the 5-to-11 year olds in their Phase II/III clinical trial that matched what they had previously observed in 16-to-25 year olds. The safety profile was also generally comparable to the older age group, they said.

“Since July, pediatric cases of COVID-19 have risen by about 240 percent in the U.S. – underscoring the public health need for vaccination,” Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla said in a news release.

“These trial results provide a strong foundation for seeking authorization of our vaccine for children 5 to 11 years old, and we plan to submit them to the FDA and other regulators with urgency.”

Top U.S. health officials believe regulators could make a decision on whether the shot is safe and effective in younger children within three weeks of the companies submitting a request for authorization, two sources told Reuters earlier this month.

COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths have surged in the United States in recent months due to the highly contagious Delta variant. Pediatric cases are also up, particularly as children under 12 are all unvaccinated, but there is no indication that, beyond being more transmissive, the Delta virus is more dangerous in kids.

A rapid authorization could help mitigate a potential surge of cases in the fall, especially with schools already open nationwide.

The companies’ vaccine, called Comirnaty, is already authorized for use in children as young as 12 in many countries, including the United States. The vaccine was originally authorized for emerenecy use in people 16 or older in the United States in December 2020 and received full U.S. approval in that age group last month.

The 5-to-11 year olds were given two shots of a 10-microgram dose of the vaccine, one-third the dose size that has been given to people 12 and older. The companies expect data on how well the vaccine works in children 2-to-5 years of age and children 6 months-to-2 years of age as soon as the fourth quarter of this year.

Unlike the larger clinical trial the drugmakers previously conducted in adults, the 2,268 participant pediatric trial was not primarily designed to measure the vaccine’s efficacy by comparing the number of COVID-19 cases in vaccine recipients to those who received a placebo.

Instead, the trial compares the amount of neutralizing antibodies induced by the vaccine in the children to the response of older recipients in the adult trial.

A Pfizer spokesperson said the companies may later disclose vaccine efficacy from the trial but there had not been enough cases of COVID-19 yet among the participants to make that determination.

The vaccine was around 95 percent effective in the adult clinical trial, but Pfizer has said that immunity wanes some months after the second dose. U.S. regulators are expected to authorize a third, booster dose of the vaccine for older and high-risk Americans early this week. read more

The companies said the vaccine was well-tolerated, with side effects generally comparable to those observed in participants 16 to 25 years of age.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been linked by regulators to rare cases of heart inflammation in adolescents and young adults, particularly young men. Pfizer said they did not see any instances of heart inflammation in the trial participants.

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