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No case of Omicron COVID variant in Nigeria – NCDC

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  • Variant detected in more countries

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has said no case of the Omicron COVID-19 variant has been detected in Nigeria.

The new variant said to be more deadly that the Delta variant has reportedly been detected in more countries after news broke out that the UK recorded the first case last week.

In a statement on Sunday, the NCDC Director-General, Ifedayo Adetifa, said the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) and the NCDC were aware of reports of a new COVID-19 variant and monitoring emerging evidence on this new variant and its implication, to inform Nigeria’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While this variant has so far not been detected in Nigeria, a number of cases have now been reported in the UK, Israel, Botswana, Hong-Kong, Germany, Belgium, Italy and counting. However, no deaths have been attributed to this new variant yet,“ the statement reads.

“Given the high number of mutations present in the Omicron variant and the exponential rise in COVID-19 cases observed in South Africa, this virus is considered highly transmissible and may also present an increased risk of reinfection compared to other VOCs.”

He, however, said the fears about the variant’s ability to evade protective immune responses and/or its being vaccine resistant are only theoretical so far.

“This virus can still be detected with existing Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests. The WHO and researchers across the world are working at speed to gain understanding of the likely impact of this variant on the severity of COVID-19 and on the potency of existing vaccines and therapeutics,” he said.

Adetifa said the agency will continue to ensure daily review of surveillance data for public health decision making, and he appealed to all states to ensure that sample collection and testing are accessible.

He said the NCDC, through the National Reference Laboratory (NRL), will continue to coordinate genomic surveillance and other activities required for the detection of variants.

“In collaboration with Port Health Services of the FMOH, enhanced surveillance is ongoing at the airports and points of entry, and to ensure compliance with current travel guidance, especially for the day 2 COVID-19 PCR testing,” he said.

“Should there be any changes to travel guidance, this will be communicated in due course. Considering the highly likely increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant and its emergence that is linked to unmitigated community transmission of the virus, the NCDC urges Nigerians to ensure strict adherence to the proven public health and social measures in place, which are enforceable by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 (PSC-COVID-19), through the COVID-19 Health Protection Regulations 2021.”

The index case of Omicron was detected in South Africa on Tuesday, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) subsequently designated Omicron as a “variant of concern”, calling on global leaders to take action to contain its spread.

More countries record new variant

Meanwhile, the Omicron coronavirus variant spread around the world on Sunday, with new cases found in the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia even as more countries imposed travel restriction to try to seal themselves off.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it was not yet clear whether Omicron, first detected in Southern Africa, is more transmissible than other variants, or if it causes more severe disease.

“Preliminary data suggests that there are increasing rates of hospitalization in South Africa, but this may be due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of specific infection,” WHO said.

It said understanding the level of severity of Omicron “will take days to several weeks”.

The detection of Omicron triggered global alarm as governments around the world scrambled to impose new travel curbs and financial markets sold-off, fearing the variant could resist vaccinations and upend a nascent economic reopening after a two-year global pandemic.

In its statement, the WHO said it was working with technical experts to understand the potential impact of the variant on existing countermeasures against COVID-19, including vaccines.

Britain said it would convene an urgent meeting of G7 health ministers on Monday to discuss the developments.

Dutch health authorities said 13 cases of the variant were found among people on two flights that arrived in Amsterdam from South Africa on Friday. Authorities had tested all of the more than 600 passengers on the flights and found 61 coronavirus cases, going on to test those for Omicron.

“This could possibly be the tip of the iceberg,” Health Minister Hugo de Jonge told reporters.

Omicron, dubbed a “variant of concern” last week by the WHO that is potentially more contagious than previous variants, has now been detected in Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Britain, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, France, Canada and South Africa.

Many countries have imposed travel bans or curbs on Southern Africa to try to stem the spread. Financial markets dived on Friday, and oil prices tumbled.

A South African doctor who was one of the first to suspect a different coronavirus strain said on Sunday that symptoms of Omicron were so far mild and could be treated at home.

Dr. Angelique Coetzee, chair of South African Medical Association, told Reuters that unlike with Delta, so far patients have not reported loss of smell or taste and there has been no major drop in oxygen levels with the new variant. read more

Israeli measures

In the most far-reaching effort to keep the variant at bay, Israel announced late on Saturday it would ban the entry of all foreigners and reintroduce counter-terrorism phone-tracking technology to contain the spread of the variant.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the ban, pending government approval, would last 14 days. Officials hope that within that period there will be more information on how effective vaccines are against Omicron.

The top U.S. infectious disease official, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told President Joe Biden on Sunday it would take about two weeks to have more definitive information about the transmissibility and other characteristics of Omicron, the White House said in a statement, adding that Fauci believes existing vaccines “are likely to provide a degree of protection against severe cases of COVID”.

 

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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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