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Govt agencies with threat messages to end strike – Resident doctors

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The National Association of Resident Doctors has raised the alarm that it is being threatened by some government agencies to call off its ongoing strike.

This comes four days into the nationwide strike which according to the association is to protest against the failure of the Federal Government to honor their agreements, including the payment of salary arrears and indemnity for their colleagues who died in the line of COVID-19 duty.

The National President, NARD, Dr Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, in an interview on Thursday that even though they had the duty to save lives, they are first human beings who had needs and should not be denied their entitlements.

He said this was a fight for survival, noting that they were tired of signing a memorandum of understanding with the government as the previous ones had yielded no result.

The leadership of the association had met with the Federal Government delegation on Wednesday night, during which the government appealed that the planned strike be shelved, but the association commenced the strike on Thursday, April 1.

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, had said on Friday that government would not hesitate to invoke the ‘No work no pay’ provision in the labour laws if they failed to call off the strike.

But in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, Okhuaihesuyi said the government had not been fair, noting that since the association issued its ultimatum on January 25 and having written series of letters to the relevant ministries and agencies, nothing was done.

The development has however paralysed activities in many teaching hospitals across the country, inflicting serious hardship on Nigerians who need medical care in such institutions.

Asked if Nigerians had helped in putting pressure on the government to do what was necessary to end the stalemate and address the inadequacies in the health sector, Okhuaihesuyi said, “Nigerians are actually scared. Basically, people cannot talk because they are scared of the unknown and there is fear of being harassed.

“Since this strike started, I have received calls from many government agencies to shelve the strike. Some are in form of threats. It’s that bad. They think it is politics, forgetting that we cannot play politics with human lives. We are professionals and being a doctor means you have sworn an oath to take care of lives but when you are hungry or you become a patient, what is your fate?”

Efforts to get the NARD President to expatiate on the threats were not successful as his line could no longer be reached till press time on Saturday.

Okhuaihesuyi also said in the interview that government was unfair in the way it was treating them. He added, “Resident doctors make up about 70 per cent of all the doctors in the workforce in Nigeria. That is independent of the challenge many doctors have in securing placement for their residency programme and that is also a big challenge.

“That was why we mentioned doctors on Government Integrated Financial Management Information System platform in our communiqué. That is the platform used in paying doctors that are not fully employed in the hospitals, and so there was leakage and fraud in the platform and it was closed. That means the number of doctors on the GIFMIS platform, which was over 3,000, have all stayed for four months without being paid.

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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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