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COVID-19: FG deadline for unvaccinated workers ends tomorrow

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The deadline for all federal civil servants to get vaccinated against coronavirus (COVID-19) is tomorrow as only those who have taken the jabs will be allowed into government’s offices and facilities.

All many workers especially in Abuja are rushing to hospitals and designated centres to take the COVID-19 vaccine ahead of the deadline, according to a Daily Trust’s report.

This is in the wake of the ravaging effect of another COVID-19 variant named Omicron, which puts the world on red alert as many countries contemplate closing their borders and restricting movements.

The Federal Government had months ago announced that workers who were yet to receive the COVID-19 vaccine will be denied access into government offices from tomorrow, December 1, 2021.

Daily Trust’s correspondents who went round Abuja saw hundreds of civil servants rushing to get the jab as many centres recorded a high influx of civil servants.

An anonymous source at the Federal Secretariat vaccination centre said many people were rushing to be vaccinated.

“So far, we have been able to vaccinate dozens of civil servants and their family members with the Astrazeneca and Modena today. Also, we have been able to administer the second round of the COVID-19 vaccine to many people today. The second jab is administered eight weeks after the first jab,” the health worker said.

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Long way to go

Daily Trust could not get the verifiable data of workers under the employ of the federal government with a credible source saying while some workers were being retired, others are dead and the speed at which replacements were being carried out was slow.

“It will be difficult to tell you the exact number of civil servants…It will not be easy because of ongoing replacements, new recruitments, deaths and all that. So, I don’t think if you will get the exact number of civil servants that have been vaccinated against COVID-19,” he said.

Also, the Director Communication, Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (OHoCSF), Malam Abdulganiyu Aminu, said they could not be specific on the actual number of civil servants vaccinated, especially for the fact that the exercise was ongoing.

In an interview with one of our correspondents, he said, “But reports reaching us from the various vaccination centres are encouraging.  Many civil servants are responding to the call to get vaccinated.”

The Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaibu, had said that as of November 26, a total of 6,242,224 Nigerians had received the first dose of COVID-19.

He also said 3,487,298 Nigerians had received their second dose and therefore fully vaccinated.

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This meant only 1.7 per cent of the total population target of 111,776,503 has been vaccinated.

The federal government had last Friday ordered federal workers from Grade Level 12 and below to resume normal duty effective from Wednesday, December 1.

The Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HoCSF), Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan, gave the order in a circular with ref. no: HCSF/3065/Vol.1/107 dated November 26, 2021.

She recalled that as part of the measures to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 Pandemic, officers on GL 12 and below were directed to work from home.

She, however, said President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the Vaccine Mandate Policy, which would require all federal government employees to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

Also, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman, Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19, Mr Boss Mustapha, had announced that all federal workers would be barred from office from December 1, unless they showed proofs of their vaccination against the coronavirus.

Speaking with Daily Trust on Monday in Abuja, some of the federal workers expressed mixed feelings about the development.

While some of them said it was good that the government made the COVID-19 vaccination mandatory in the interest of the nation, few others said it violated their fundamental rights.

“I am happy that the government has made it mandatory for workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19,” a worker with the ministry of power, said.

“It is sad that we don’t trust our government because from the look of things, millions of Nigerians are not willing to take the jab and this is dangerous.

“Look at how the variant is mutating! Look at the Omicron that is ravaging the world. Government must deploy all the resources it has to ensure that all Nigerians are vaccinated not only civil servants. The civil servants are a fraction of the over 200m people in the country. It is saddening that up till now less than 2 per cent have been vaccinated. We are sitting on a time bomb,” he said.

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  “I hope the government is not using style to embark on workers retrenchment”, another worker with the ministry of education, said.

“Some of us have not been vaccinated and I need to be convinced that I would be fine after taking it. We need serious sensitisation because some people alleged that they took ill after taking the jab,” he said.

Daily Trust reports that as of Monday, November 29, Nigeria’s COVID-19 infection toll stood at 214,092; active cases at 3,862; total discharged cases at 207, 254; and the death toll at 2,976.

FG to review travels, other protocols over Omicron variant

As the world’s attention shifts to the new COVID-19 variant Omicron, the federal government said that it will review Nigeria’s travel and other protocols to curtail the entry or spread of the disease.

SGF Boss Mustapha said this on Monday in Abuja at the national briefing of the committee.

Mustapha said, “The world has been hit with a new COVID-19 Variant of Concern called Omicron as announced by the World Health Organisation (WHO). This variant is potentially dangerous and Nigerians and residents are required to exercise extra caution and vigilance in practice and enforcement of preventive measures.

“As the DG WHO stated today, the emergence of the highly-mutated Omicron variant underlines just how perilous and precarious our situation is. South Africa and Botswana should be thanked for detecting, sequencing and reporting this variant, not penalised,” he said.

He said that the PSC was reviewing the situation around the world and putting in place measures to curtail the impact of the variant on the country and that the new travel protocols would cover travels, testing, enforcement, surveillance and risk communication.

The SGF also said that the impasse on the Nigeria-UAE flights had been resolved in the interest of both parties.

“A date for the commencement of flights between the two countries will be announced in due course,” he said.

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We should resist unscientific travel restrictions -Ramaphosa

Speaking elsewhere on the debate on restricting movement, South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa has said that the world needed to resist unjustified and unscientific COVID-19 travel restrictions that mostly hurt developing nations.

Ramaphosa said his country was being punished for its advanced ability to detect new variants early, as bans and restrictions threaten to harm tourism and other sectors.

“We need to resist unjustified and unscientific travel restrictions that are damaging the economies and sectors of the economies that rely on travel,” Ramaphosa said during a speech at the opening of the China-Africa Summit in Dakar.

“There is a world order where a country’s wealth is the difference between sickness and health,” he added. Senegal’s President, Macky Sall, who was hosting the summit, replied that Africa was in solidarity with South Africa and Africa “Will not close its doors to South Africa.”

Lagos airport, others on high alert

Our correspondent in Lagos reports that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) had alerted relevant agencies in charge of health screening of inbound passengers at all international airports in the country.

Daily Trust learnt that officials had ramped up medical checks of passengers at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, which is the busiest entry point into the country.

Sources told our correspondent that the Airport Manager at Lagos Airport was directed to summon an emergency meeting of all relevant agencies in charge of health checks at the airport.

The intent, it was learnt, was to impress on every stakeholder to be on high alert to detect any passenger.

It was learnt that authorities at other international airports like the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja; Malam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano; Port Harcourt International Airport, Rivers and Enugu International Airports have been put on high alert to prevent the importation of the new variant into the country.

General Manager, Corporate Communications of FAAN, Mrs Henrietta Yakubu, in a chat with our correspondent confirmed the development.

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AfDB Investment Forum postponed

Also, following consultations with the Government of Côte d’Ivoire and the Board of Directors of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), the 2021 Africa Investment Forum, which was scheduled for December 1-3, 2021, in Abidjan, has been postponed until further notice.

The President of AfDB, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina said: “The Africa Investment Forum is the premier investment marketplace for Africa. Several billion dollars of investment projects were scheduled for investment board rooms with project sponsors and investors at this edition of the Africa Investment Forum. Unfortunately, with rising global travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 Omicron variant and heightened concerns for health and safety, it is necessary, regrettably, to postpone the event. The health and safety of everyone come first.”

Similarly, the German Biotechnology Company, BioNTech, which manufactures vaccines, has started the development of a new COVID-19 vaccine that aims to combat the Omicron variant.

This was made known by the BioNTech spokesperson yesterday saying that to avoid wasting time, the company was developing an updated vaccine as well as testing its existence shot pending when the data is available.

The vaccine manufacturer, which partners with US giant, Pfizer on COVID-19 vaccines, is reported to have said that it had initiated the development of an adapted vaccine for Omicron to allow it to move forward quickly.

COVID-19

Ogun bags best performing state award in RI, Covid-19 vaccination

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Ogun State Deputy Governor, Engr. Noimot Salako-Oyedele

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has declared Ogun  as the overall best performing state in the SouthWest on Routine Immunisation (RI) and Covid-19 Vaccination.

This was contained in a statement made available by the State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Tomi Coker in Abeokuta, after the conferment of the award at the Immunisation Performance Award ceremony, held in commemoration of the 2022 African Vaccination Week in Abuja.

Coker, according to the Press Officer, Ogun State Primary Health Care Development Board (OGSPHCDB),  Yemisi Fashola, quoted that the award was in recognition of the state’s commitment and support towards improving the performance on Routine Immunisation and other primary health care activities in the country.

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The Commissioner stated that the award was received by the Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, who was represented by his Deputy, Engr. Noimot Salako-Oyedele.

While appreciating the Federal Government for deeming it fit to recognize the efforts of the State government at improving the wellbeing of its citizenry, Coker attributed the award to the support and hard work of the total health force, as well as the cooperation of residents in the State.

The Health Commissioner, who hailed the health workers for their efforts, said the African vaccination week was geared towards strengthening immunisation programmes in African region, by increasing awareness on the importance of every person’s need and right to be protected from vacation- preventable diseases.

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COVID-19: NAFDAC boss confirms Nigeria’s vaccines meet global standard

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NAFDAC Director General, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), has confirmed that vaccines produced in Nigeria including those for COVID-19, will be of “internationally acceptable standard”.

NAFDAC Director General, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, made the affirmation in a press statement signed by the Agency’s Resident Media Consultant, Sayo Akintola

Prof Mojisola Adeyeye, the statement indicated made the disclosure during an oversight visit to the NAFDAC facilities and COVID-19 laboratory projects in Lagos last week Friday, by the House of Representatives Committee on COVID-19.

She described the Federal government’s FG huge spending on the fight against the virus as exemplified by the construction of the new laboratory, equipped with modern instruments and amenities at the Agency as a wake-up call for the country.

Prof. Adeyeye noted with dismay that the health sector had hitherto been neglected before the present administration responded through the COVID-19 Committees of the National Assembly, ‘’particularly the members that are here today’’.

In order to ensure that the health sector is strengthened, the NAFDAC asserted that the regulatory Agency must be strengthened.

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“If the regulatory agency is not strengthened, the industry will not be strengthened,’’ she said, adding; ‘’we have the African Free trade Agreement already here with us now for the nation’s pharmaceutical industry to take advantage of with quality products.’’

She added: ‘’there will be a lot of competition and if NAFDAC’s laboratory is not strengthened, we will not be able to compete’’.

‘’For vaccines, we are hoping that the vaccine facilities from the public- private partnership will soon happen’’, warning that ‘’but if the regulatory agency is not strong, we can make vaccines that will destroy our own people’’.

With NAFDAC now very strong with WHO Maturity Level 3 certification, Prof. Adeyeye enthused that ‘’Nigeria can now make her own vaccines and we can assure the populace that there is quality in whatever is being manufactured because of NAFDAC’s strength’’.

On the impact of COVID-19 fund has, she said this should resonate well with the whole country, that if you put the right people in the right places, then the vision of the government can be realized.

‘’Whatever approvals that are being given by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on funding our activities, you can actually touch such and this is what has happened here today’’, Prof. Adeyeye excitedly told the visiting lawmakers.

She commended the House COVID-19 committee, and the Healthcare Services Committee of the 9th Assembly for committing to ensuring that NAFDAC as a regulatory agency is known internationally.

Speaking in the same vein, Chairman, House Committee on COVID-19, Haruna Mshelia commended the NAFDAC boss and her team for leveraging on latest technology to upgrade the Agency to a standard that is next to none in Africa.

“We have seen with our eyes how they have leveraged on latest technology to upgrade the organization to a standard that is next to none in Africa. I think they need to be commended. We have seen the warehouse. We have now seen the laboratory which is under construction. They have gone very far, and the standard of the construction is good’’, he said.

He added: “We have also seen the equipment awaiting to be installed in the laboratories. I have to say kudos to the DG and her team for getting good value for money as far as COVID-19 funds for NAFDAC is concerned. Other Agencies should come to NAFDAC and learn how they have leveraged on ICT to move their organization forward so that everywhere our standard can be uplifted with everyone seeing it” Mshelia advised.

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FG to test locally-made COVID-19 vaccine in November

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The COVID-19 vaccine developed by the Federal Government is set for trial by November

The PUNCH reports that the project, which is a mega research grant intervention tagged,  ‘Accelerated development of COVID-19 vaccines using innovative technological approach’, is a collaborative effort involving cluster researchers from five different institutions to consolidate problem-solving research and promote innovation in the country.

The PUNCH had earlier reported that Tertiary Education Trust Fund awarded a total of N1.25bn to four clusters of researchers.

One of the clusters, which is the Vaccine Production Cluster, got a total grant of N450m.

According to a statement by TETFUND and made available to our correspondent in Abuja, the VPC is made up of researchers from the National Veterinary Research Institute Vom; Usman Danfodiyo University Sokoto; Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Jos; Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Lagos; and National Research Institute for Chemical Technology, Zaria.

The statement titled, ‘TETFund-sponsored COVID-19 vaccine ready for trial November’ read in part, “The Vice Chancellor of Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Prof Lawal Bilbis, who led the team of researchers to brief the Executive Secretary of TETFund, Sonny Echono, on the progress so far explained that they were able to make the breakthrough through the maximum support of the fund.

“He recalled how the COVIC-19 pandemic ravaged and unleashed untold hardship on humanity globally, noting that Nigeria was only saved by divine intervention, since the nation was not prepared for such eventuality.

“TETFund believed in us and supported us to get to where we are now. That is why we have come to give a firsthand report on the progress made so far.”

A presentation by Dr Bashir Bello of Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, revealed that it had become a matter of urgency for Africa to join the rest of the world in the production of its own vaccine, as it was estimated that the continent currently imports 99 per cent of its vaccines and consumes 25 per cent of global vaccine supply.

-The Punch

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