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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

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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