Senegal Detects First Case Of Omicron Variant

File photo: A healthcare worker fills a syringe with Covid-19 vaccine at a community vaccination event. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP)

 

A first case of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has been reported in Senegal, in a visitor who was leaving the country after an international meeting in capital Dakar, a research institute said.

The IRESSEF health body said late Saturday that the 58-year-old patient arrived in Senegal by air from another West African country on November 22.

He had been vaccinated earlier this year with the AstraZeneca and Pfizer shots and had no symptoms by Saturday.

READ ALSO: UK Adds Nigeria To Red List Over Omicron Fears

Although the man has now been quarantined in a medical centre, he stayed at a Dakar hotel and took part in an event with 300 people from different countries on November 24-25.

Senegal has recorded more than 74,000 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.

Launched in February, the country’s vaccination campaign has made slow progress, with 1.3 million people inoculated out of a total 17 million population.

AFP

COVID-19: Zamfara Receives Additional 10,000 Doses Of AstraZeneca Vaccine

A file photo of a health worker writing on a paper. Channels TV/ Sodiq Adelakun.

 

Zamfara State Government has received additional 10,000 doses of Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and is ready to begin the third phase of vaccination in the state.

The Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association in the state, Dr. Mannir Bature disclosed this to Channels Television in Gusau, the state capital.

He debunked news making the rounds that some states are short of the second dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

Bature noted that since the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine has been deployed, there is an assurance that the second dose of the vaccine will be made available.

This is even as he stated the state government will soon flag off the third phase of the vaccination to residents of Zamfara.

The NMA chairman equally asked those that received the first dose of the second phase of vaccination to make themselves available for the second dose of the vaccine, stating that there are enough vaccines, both AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccine in the state.

“We still have doses of Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine in the state. What happened is that anytime we are deploying vaccine, we make sure both first and second dose are available before we even commence it,” he said.

“I will like to inform you that we just received additional doses of 10,000 in the state and we will flag off the third phase of vaccination. All those that received the first dose in the second phase are expected to present themselves for the second dose irrespective of whichever type of vaccine they received, either AstraZeneca or Moderna, all of them are available.”

Georgia Destroys 17,000 Vaccine Doses As Rollout Slows

File photo of a COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP)

 

Health officials in Georgia sounded the alarm Wednesday over the slow pace of coronavirus vaccinations, after some 17,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine had to be destroyed because they expired.

The Black Sea nation is in the midst of a devastating new wave of the pandemic despite vaccines being widely available.

The country of 3.7 million people saw record numbers of daily cases this week, with 6,024 new infections on Wednesday, and was the country with the fifth-highest number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the week to Tuesday, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.

Overall Georgia has reported nearly 733,000 cases and more than 10,000 deaths.

“The government has made available a wide choice of internationally approved Covid-19 vaccines, but the rollout has slowed significantly since the summer,” the deputy director of Georgia’s National Centre for Disease Control, Paata Imnadze, told AFP.

“As a result, we were forced to destroy 17,000 expired AstraZeneca vaccines.”

If the trend is not reversed, “we will soon face… a sharp increase in mortality,” Imnadze said.

This summer the ex-Soviet republic’s government set up vaccination points in shopping malls and sent medical brigades to villages to speed up the rollout.

The finance ministry in September launched a lottery in which cash prizes are awarded to both partially and fully vaccinated people.

But many health professionals have criticised the government’s efforts as insufficient.

“There was practically no information campaign to raise awareness about the vaccination’s importance and safety,” the head of the critical medicine department at the Tbilisi-based New Hospital, Vakho Kaloyan, told AFP.

Only a third of Georgia’s population has been vaccinated with at least one dose since the country began a national coronavirus vaccine drive in March.

Georgia received a donation of some 43,000 doses of AstraZeneca through the UN’s mechanism for vaccine distributions, Covax, as well as 500,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine from the United States.

AFP

UK Recognises AstraZeneca, Other COVID-19 Vaccines Used In Nigeria, Says Envoy

Nigeria kicked off the second phase of its Covid vaccination programme on August 16, 2021.
Nigeria launched the second phase of its COVID-19 vaccination programme on August 16, 2021.

 

The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, has faulted the claims that the United Kingdom does not approve of the COVID-19 vaccines used in the country.

In previous months, the Nigerian Government has received millions of doses of vaccines by different manufacturers such as the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, Moderna, as well as Johnson and Johnson (J&J).

Amid reports that the British government does not recognise some of the vaccines administered to people in Nigeria, Laing described the claim as false.

“The UK is committed to global access to vaccines, and is among the largest funders to COVAX,” she said in a statement on Saturday. “The UK has donated 1.2 million vaccines specifically to Nigeria through COVAX and will continue to provide support.

“I would like to emphasise that any statement that COVID-19 vaccines administered in Nigeria are not approved by the UK are completely untrue. The UK recognises the Oxford AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines used in Nigeria, irrespective of where they are manufactured.”

According to the British envoy, the UK strongly supports the work of the Nigerian health authorities and the nation’s vaccination campaign.

She added that the UK had encouraged all eligible residents in Nigeria to get vaccinated, saying that was the only way to end the spread of COVID-19.

Laing also spoke about rules concerning international travel to the UK, noting that the British government remained committed to opening up international travel.

The UK, she said, is using its COVID-19 vaccination certification process to enable those wishing to enter the country to do so safely.

“We know this matters hugely to many people in the UK and in Nigeria – the extensive people-to-people ties between our two countries are at the heart of our bilateral relationship,” the British envoy explained. “From October 4, the current system will be simplified.

“There will be a single red list of countries and territories where stricter rules apply, and there will also be a ‘rest of the world’ list, with simplified travel measures. The ‘rest of the world’ list will include countries currently on the UK’s amber list, such as Nigeria.”

She stated that travel rules were kept under regular review and those planning a UK trip must be aware of the latest information and requirements.

EU Commissioner Hopeful People Vaccinated With AstraZeneca Can Enter US

European commissioner for internal market Thierry Breton gives a press conference about the new European Health Emergency preparedness and response authority (Hera), in Brussels, on September 16, 2021. (Photo by François WALSCHAERTS / AFP)

 

While Washington has not authorised the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19, a European commissioner on Monday expressed hope that travellers from the continent inoculated with the jab will soon be able to enter the United States.

The US government on Monday announced that starting November 1, it will lift the pandemic travel ban on all air passengers who are fully vaccinated and undergo testing and contact tracing.

The unprecedented travel restrictions had raised tensions between the United States and its European allies and had kept relatives, friends and business travelers around the world separated for many months as the pandemic grinds on.

In an interview in Washington with AFP, Thierry Breton, European commissioner for internal market, said the new order covers people vaccinated with jabs recognized by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The agency has not approved the AstraZeneca shot used by many European nations, however, Breton said he spoke with White House pandemic response coordinator Jeff Zients who “sounded positive and optimistic.”

However, Zients told him that “for the other vaccines, for AstraZeneca in particular, their health agency would decide.”

Whether a decision would come by November 1 when travel resumes, Zients “seemed positive on the dates, too,” said Breton, who coordinates the EU’s supply of Covid-19 vaccines.

Breton said the restrictions “no longer made any sense.”

Despite Europe’s relatively high vaccination rates “we are on the same restrictions as China, Iran, and other countries. It makes no sense at all,” he said.

The United States first imposed the restrictions as the pandemic began in March 2020 on travelers from the European Union, United Kingdom, and China, later extending it to India and Brazil.

However, the availability of Covid-19 vaccines has made continuing the travel ban a point of transatlantic tension.

That worsened in recent days after Australia’s sudden announcement that it will acquire US-built nuclear submarines as part of a new defense alliance, ditching a contract with France for conventionally powered submarines.

AFP

NPHCDA Sets Wednesday To Begin Second Dose Of AstraZeneca Vaccine

A file photo of a syringe and a vial containing the COVID-19 vaccine by AstraZeneca. THOMAS KIENZLE / AFP

 

Those who have received their first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine will begin to receive the second dose from Wednesday, the Federal Government has said.

Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib, disclosed this on Tuesday at a briefing in Abuja.

He appealed to those who have taken the first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to proceed to their vaccination sites for the second dose for maximum protection against the disease.

Shuaib also asked persons aged 18 years and above who have yet to be vaccinated to visit any of the sites to receive their first dose of the Moderna vaccine.

READ ALSO: FG Has Made 15% Deposit For J&J Vaccines – NPHCDA

The NPHCDA boss explained why the Federal Government delayed the deployment of the Moderna vaccines to states after they were certified safe by the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

He said the delay was due to the lack of proper coding for tracing and tracking, although 29 states have so far received their shipment of the vaccines.

According to Shuaib, the Johnson & Johnson will be available to persons in security-compromised, riverine, nomadic, and border settlements.

He urged Nigerians to continue to observe the existing protocols to curb the spread of the disease, even after vaccination until the country achieves herd immunity.

Read the text of the NPHCDA boss’ speech at the briefing below:

Distinguished members of the Press, it gives me great pleasure to once again welcome you to this weekly progress report on our efforts to protect Nigerians against the deadly COVID-19.

I have come to look forward to this regular interface with you as it aligns with our principle of transparency and accountability at NPHCDA and the partnership. I thank you for keeping faith with us as we strive to make Nigerians healthy.

In the last few days, our focus has been on distributing the range of COVID-19 vaccines – Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca to the states, as well as concluding the training of state and LGA personnel to ensure optimum vaccine utilisation.

So far, we have deployed Moderna vaccines to 29 States. It is pertinent to state that we could not deploy the vaccines immediately after NAFDAC certification because, unlike the AstraZeneca, the Moderna vaccine did not come with complete barcoding. And this is absolutely needed for us to be able to track and trace the vaccines.

As I told you in previous meetings, Nigeria was the first country to use Track and Trace, to monitor the movement and utilisation of the vaccine. At every point in time, we know where each vaccine vial is in the country. This takes a lot of time as it entails careful packaging, serialisation and follow up to the end user.

Furthermore, we want to ensure that any state we are sending the vaccine to, is fully ready to receive them. Readiness here means that the state’s ultra-cold chain equipment is fully functional and able to store the vaccines at the required temperatures.

Also, the states must have back-up storage facilities such as walk-in cold room, walk-in freezer or chest freezers with reliable 24-hour power supply. Additionally, we require that the states have trained health care workers who will monitor the equipment and the vaccines.

Now that the vaccines are in the states, we are counting on our Governors to continue to provide the needed oversight and resources to ensure that these vaccines are secured and maintained in the required temperatures and that all eligible persons are mobilised to access the vaccines to protect themselves, their families and their communities against COVID-19.

For Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is a single dose, using the Geographical Information System (GIS), we have mapped out the hard-to-reach areas across all states, such as security-compromised, riverine, nomadic and border settlements where these vaccines will be deployed for targeted vaccination.

Again, as I mentioned previously, the reason for targeting these areas with the Johnson & Johnson is because of geographical constraints that make it difficult to reach the dwellers with the second dose after the first contact.

Secondly, it removes the additional logistic cost for going to these communities twice. We have developed the necessary protocols to guide the states and ensure compliance with the distribution guideline for the vaccine.

The AstraZeneca vaccine will be used as the second dose for those who received their first dose during the first phase to ensure they are fully vaccinated. Consequently, the administration of AstraZeneca Vaccine will commence on the 25th of August and will close on the 5th of September.

I, therefore, urge all those who received their first dose prior to July 8th to visit a designated vaccination site from 25th August to 5th September to receive their second dose and become fully protected against COVID-19. As we receive more supplies, we will then open it up for those who may wish to take their first dose.

You may recall that one of the initiatives we have introduced in this second phase of the vaccination rollout and subsequent phases is the primary health care services integration (PSI), also known as the “whole of family” approach.

This means that when you visit a health facility for your COVID-19 vaccination, you will be given health talks to improve your knowledge of the vaccine and vaccination, and if you are 40 years and above, you will have the opportunity to check your blood pressure and be assessed for the risk of diabetes.

Similarly, children aged zero to 12 months will be screened for malnutrition and vaccinated against childhood diseases such as measles, yellow fever, hepatitis and polio. If you need further medical attention, you will be referred to the appropriate hospital for additional analysis and treatment.

Distinguished ladies and Gentlemen, I want to wrap up by urging every person aged 18 years and above who has not been vaccinated to visit any of our vaccination sites to receive their first dose of Moderna vaccine.

Those who have received their first dose of AstraZeneca should also proceed to their vaccination sites for their second dose for maximum protection. And as I mentioned earlier, Johnson & Johnson will be available to persons in security-compromised, riverine, nomadic and border settlements.

Please remember that even after vaccination, we need to continue to observe the non-pharmaceutical measures such as wearing of facemask, observing hand hygiene physical distancing, and avoiding crowds and unnecessary travels until the country achieves herd immunity.

I would also like to congratulate Nigerians as we reach one year of being certified wild polio virus free on August 25th.

I thank you and will continue to count on your support for dissemination of true and accurate information to keep Nigerians informed and educated about COVID-19 vaccines and vaccination.

God bless you!

God bless NPHCDA!!

God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!!!

Dr. Faisal Shuaib

ED/CEO NPHCDA

Nigeria To Receive Over 176,000 J&J COVID-19 Vaccines On Wednesday

A health worker prepares a COVID-19 vaccine dose to inoculate a woman. Tauseef MUSTAFA / AFP (File Photo)

 

Nigeria is expected to receive 176,000 doses of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday.

Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Faisal Shuaib, confirmed this at a news conference in Abuja on Tuesday.

He said the J&J vaccine, like the AstraZeneca, is safe and efficient against the coronavirus disease, including the deadlier Delta variant.

The J&J vaccine is a single-shot vaccine.

It is expected to boost Nigeria’s COVID-19 fight with the Delta variant sparking fears of a third wave of the pandemic.

Dr. Shuaib had recently announced that the second phase of the COVID-19 vaccination programme would commence soon.

The exercise had earlier been scheduled to begin on Tuesday, but it was postponed due to “unforeseen circumstances,” according to a spokesperson in the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Willie Bassey.

The need for the rollout of the second batch of the vaccines has, however, become crucial as Nigeria gradually returns to seeing a spike in infections.

As of Monday, 422 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded in the country, with five more deaths.

According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the infections were recorded in nine states. Lagos maintained the lead with 190 cases, followed by Rivers (86) and Ogun (85).

Others are Oyo (22), FCT (20), Kwara (7), Edo (5), Abia (4), and Bayelsa (3)

So far, a total of 178,508 cases have been confirmed, 165,983 patients have recovered and 2,192 deaths have been recorded in 36 states, including the Federal Capital Territory.

More than 200 million cases of the pandemic have been confirmed globally, with the death toll reaching four million.

Vaccine Used In Nigeria Can Protect Against Indian COVID-19 Variant – NPHCDA

In this file photo, a vial containing the COVID-19 vaccine by AstraZeneca and a syringe are seen on a table. AFP
In this file photo, a vial containing the COVID-19 vaccine by AstraZeneca and a syringe are seen on a table. AFP

 

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency has called on Nigerians to continue to take the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

Addressing reporters on Tuesday in Abuja, the Executive Director of the NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib, stated that the vaccine was not only effective but was capable of protecting people against the Indian variant of the virus.

“Recent research from Public Health England (PHE) shows that the Indian (Delta) variant B.1.617.2 is 92% susceptible to Oxford/AstraZeneca,” he said at the briefing to update Nigerians on the status of COVID-19 vaccination.

Shuaib added, “It is, therefore, comforting to know that the vaccine used in Nigeria can protect against this variant that caused high morbidity and mortality in India. However, it underscores the need for us to ramp up our vaccination to more Nigerians.”

He announced that the Nigerian government has reopened the administration of the first dose of the vaccine effective from Tuesday, in response to requests by Nigerians to be vaccinated.

The NPHCDA boss noted that the vaccination for the first dose was officially closed on May 24 and appealed to persons of 18 years and above that were yet to take the jab to visit the nearest vaccination site for the first dose of the vaccine.

He explained that such persons would be due to receive their second dose of the jab in 12 weeks, noting that Nigeria would have received the next consignment of vaccines.

The NPHCDA boss said dedicated teams have continued to make strides in the vaccine rollout, working hand-in-hand with the local communities all across the country.

As of June 15, he revealed that the agency has administered 1,978,808 and 680,345 first and second doses of the vaccine respectively.

Shuaib called on all Nigerians who have received their first dose to check their vaccination cards for the date of their first dose.

He asked them to ensure that they receive the second dose between six and 12 weeks from the date they took the first dose, to gain full protection against the COVID-19 virus.

COVID-19: El-Rufai Takes Second Jab Of AstraZeneca

El-Rufai receives the second jab of the COVID-19 vaccine

 

Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai has taken the second jab of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Governor El-Rufai received the jab at his residence on Monday as he commenced the second phase of the vaccine in the state.

READ ALSO: Buhari Takes the Second Dose Of COVID-19 Vaccine

His vaccination comes after President Muhammadu Buhari received his second dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine last Saturday at the State House in Abuja.

The second dose is being administered exactly 12 weeks after the first shot was taken on March 6.

The President’s inoculation was done by the Chief Personal Physician to the President, Dr. Suhayb Rafindadi Sanusi after which he was presented with the e-vaccination card by the executive director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr. Faisal Shuaib.

Canada Extends Shelf Life Of AstraZeneca Jab By One Month

Files: Miguel MEDINA / AFP

 

Canadian health authorities announced Saturday they were pushing back the expiration date on nearly 50,000 doses of AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine by one month.

Health Canada said in a statement its approval to extend the shelf life of two lots of vaccine from May 31 to July 1 was supported by “scientific evidence.”

“This change will ensure that provinces and territories are able to use up their existing inventory and provide Canadians access to much needed doses of the vaccine,” the agency said.

A spokesperson for Health Canada said that as of May 22, there were about 49,000 doses of AstraZeneca in the country with an expiration date of May 31. CBC reported that most were in Ontario province.

Canadian health authorities had previously approved a six-month shelf life for AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine.

READ ALSO: France Threatens To Pull Troops Out Of Mali

But they said they received information from the company on May 27 including “product stability and mathematical modelling data” that showed the two lots could be safely and effectively used for an extra month.

Several provinces announced this month their decision to suspend use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people receiving their first shot, due to rare instances of blood clots.

But Canadians who had received a first AstraZeneca dose were able to get their scheduled second dose.

Just over 55 percent of Canada’s 38 million people have received one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, and 5 percent have received two doses.

In addition to AstraZeneca, vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are approved for use in Canada.

AFP

Africa Needs 20m Doses Of AstraZeneca Jabs In Six Weeks – WHO

In this file photo an illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes with the logo of British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca on November 17, 2020. AFP

 

Africa needs at least 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine within six weeks if those who have had their first shot are to get the second in time, the WHO said Thursday.

“Africa needs vaccines now,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s Regional Director for Africa.

“Any pause in our vaccination campaigns will lead to lost lives and lost hope.”

The WHO statement underlined the importance of respecting the recommended interval of eight to 12 weeks between doses to ensure a recipient’s prolonged 81-percent protection rate.

READ ALSO: Moderna Says COVID-19 Vaccine ‘Highly Effective’ In Adolescents

“In addition to this urgent need, another 200 million doses of any WHO Emergency Use Listed COVID-19 vaccine are needed so that the continent can vaccinate 10% of its population by September 2021,” the statement added.

 

A picture of the billboard of the World Health Organization (WHO)

 

As of May 26, Africa had registered more than 4.7 million cases of coronavirus with nearly 130,000 deaths attributed to the virus.

AFP

EU, AstraZeneca Battle In Court Over Vaccine Delays

 

The European Union accused AstraZeneca of a “flagrant violation” of its contract to rapidly build-up coronavirus production capacity in the bloc, as it began legal action against the drugs giant Wednesday.

The EU member states and their executive, the European Commission, brought the case before a court in Brussels, the union having signed its supply agreement with the British and Swedish firm under Belgian law.

The EU is suing the group in a bid to force it to deliver 90 million more doses of its Covid-19 vaccine before July — arguing that it failed in its contractual duty by handing over only a quarter of the doses it promised for the first quarter of 2021.

The deadline for the contract was set for mid-June, according to the Commission, and the EU says the company will face financial penalties if it does not meet this deadline.

AstraZeneca delivered only 30 million doses in the first quarter out of the 120 million it was contracted to supply. For the current quarter which runs until June 30, it plans to deliver only 70 million of the 180 million initially promised.

A Commission official close to the case told AFP this month that AstraZeneca was currently delivering doses at a rate of only 10 million per month, well below the planned pace.

The company’s defence — articulated ahead of the case in a series of media interviews by AstraZeneca’s French-Australian boss Pascal Soriot — has been that the contract only stipulates that it make “best reasonable efforts” and that production was hit by unavoidable delays.

But, opening the attack for the EU, lawyer Rafael Jeffareli argued that the firm had privileged supplies to Britain and beyond, while failing to make the best effort to step up production at its EU site in the Netherlands, operated by its sub-contractor Halix.

In court, Jeffareli alleged that for several weeks after the EU signed its contract with the firm in September last year, the Dutch plant had continued to supply markets other than the EU.

“Best effort means flexibility! Why did the switchover of the Halix site (to EU supply) only start on October 13?” he demanded.

“AstraZeneca did not even use all the tools at its disposal,” he said, claiming that the group could at the time mobilise “six production sites to meet the set schedule.”

The Halix plant in Leiden, the Netherlands, had sent supplies to Japan at the end of last year, he said. In total, “50 million doses were diverted to third countries in flagrant violation of the contract”.

The group denies having failed in its obligations and at the end of April denounced the lawsuit as “unfounded”.

One lawyer for AstraZeneca — which worked with Oxford University in the development of its vaccine — has claimed that the EU had been warned “as early as February” of the delays and expressed surprise that the bloc had waited at least two months to take the matter to court.

But the European Commission says the contract proves AstraZeneca is legally responsible, and EU diplomats and lawmakers have pointed out that the company has largely delivered promised doses to Britain, where it is headquartered.

– ‘Not in the contract’ –

The commission, which has been responsible for procuring vaccines for all of the bloc, initially intended to use the AstraZeneca jab as the main workhorse to power the EU’s inoculation drive.

It has now switched to the more expensive Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine as its mainstay.

Ahead of the hearing Hakim Boularbah, AstraZeneca’s lawyer, said the contracts contained “no obligation to use (production) sites”.

“This may be what the commission wants, but it is not provided for in the contract,” he said.

The row has eroded public confidence in the AstraZeneca jab, which also took a blow over worries of links to very rare blood clots in people who had received it.

In the European Union, Denmark, as early as April, and later Norway and Austria, stopped using AstraZeneca in their vaccination campaigns.

Most other countries have restricted its administration to older adults. This is the case in France, where it is reserved for those aged 55 and over.

AFP