In a communique issued on Friday, the PSC Chairman and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said the call followed recent confirmation of more cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19 in several states and the continued rising number of infections and hospitalization across the country.
He warned all political parties, State governments, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIEC) to avoid the spread of the virus amid political gatherings and ensure maximum public safety.
Meanwhile, Nigeria has recorded 497 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases as new infections continue to increase amid fears that the third wave of the pandemic has already hit the country.
In its latest update issued on Saturday night, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said the total number of cases in the country has risen to 173,908, with the new figure indicating a slight decrease from the 590 reported on Friday as the biggest daily figure since March.
The 497 new cases were recorded in 17 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), with Lagos remaining the epicenter of the virus.
While the nation’s commercial capital recorded 211 cases, Akwa-Ibom State came second with 80 new cases while Kwara recorded 73 cases.
In the South-West, Osun State is ranked 4th on the list with 29 cases while Oyo and Rivers each raked in 17 cases. Cross River recorded 15, Anambra nine and Ogun eight.
The National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control has approved two more COVID-19 vaccines for use in Nigeria.
They are the Moderna and Sputnik vaccines.
Both vaccines were approved for emergency use, according to the Director-General of NAFDAC, Professor Moji Adeyeye, who announced the news on Thursday at a news conference in Abuja.
The agency had earlier approved the Oxford-Astrazeneca and Pfizer jabs, also for emergency use.
Professor Adeyeye explained that although the Sputnik vaccine, produced in Russia, has not yet been approved by the World Health Organisation, NAFDAC has carried out independent checks on the vaccine and found that the benefits outweigh the risks.
The approval comes as fears of a COVID-19 third wave in Nigeria continues to loom.
On Wednesday, the University of Lagos ordered students to vacate hostels on campus after a number of students reportedly contracted COVID-19.
The possibility of a third-wave has heightened after the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control reported the Delta variant of the virus in Nigeria.
The variant is believed to be more contagious and deadlier than its predecessors.
Europe’s medicines watchdog said Friday it was checking whether Covid-19 vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna could be linked to rare cases of blood clotting, but there was no indication so far.
The European Medicines Agency last month linked two other EU-approved vaccines, one made by AstraZeneca and another by Johnson & Johnson, to rare but occasionally fatal clots, however it stressed the vaccines’ benefits in fighting the coronavirus pandemic outweighed the risks.
The EMA’s safety committee “is closely monitoring whether mRNA vaccines might also be linked to cases of rare, unusual blood clots with low blood platelets.”
“Following a review of reports of suspected side effects, the (committee) considers at this stage that there is no safety signal for the mRNA vaccines,” the Amsterdam-based EMA said.
US drugs giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech as well as the US-based pharmaceutical Moderna base their vaccines on mRNA genetic technology that trains the body to reproduce spike proteins, similar to that found on the coronavirus.
When exposed to the real virus later, the body recognises the spike proteins and is able to fight them off.
So far, only few cases of blood clots with low blood platelets have been reported among the users of the mRNA vaccines.
Compared to the millions of people who have been vaccinated with them, “these numbers are extremely low, and their frequency is lower than the one occurring in people who have not been vaccinated,” the EMA said.
“In addition, these cases do not seem to present the specific clinical pattern observed with Vaxzevria and COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen,” the EMA said, using the brand names for AstraZeneca and J&J’s vaccines.
“Overall, the current evidence does not suggest a causal relation,” the medicines watchdog said.
The EMA also announced it has started reviewing data on a British and US-made antibody to treat coronavirus patients, but that it was too early to rule on its risks and benefits.
The EMA started a “rolling review” of data on sotrovimab, a monoclonal antibody developed by Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology based out of California.
Sotrovimab is a monoclonal antibody, a type of protein that attaches to the spike protein of the coronavirus, reducing its ability to enter the body’s cells.
The rolling review is a precursor to accelerated authorisation for use within the 27-nation European Union.
World Health Organization experts on Tuesday cautiously backed delaying second injections of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine in some situations, as they did for the Pfizer-BioNTech jabs.
The WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation (SAGE) also insisted international travellers should not be prioritised for any Covid-19 jabs for the time being.
During a meeting last week, the experts discussed the Moderna vaccine which, like that of Pfizer-BioNTech, uses mRNA technology and is being rolled out across the world.
Both vaccines require boosters after three to four weeks, but several countries facing limited vaccine supplies have said they will delay administering the second injection so that more people can benefit from receiving a first dose.
The WHO’s vaccine advisory group said it was best to respect the tested intervals between doses of 21 days in the case of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 28 days for Moderna.
But earlier this month, it said that in “exceptional circumstances” it was possible to wait for up to 42 days to administer the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — and on Tuesday, it said the same for the Moderna jabs.
Head of the SAGE, Alejandro Cravioto, warned in a virtual press briefing though that “the evidence we have does not go beyond that” six-week cut off.
– ‘As quickly as possible’ –
The UN health agency has so far approved only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine but it is expected to issue approval for the Moderna jab soon.
“We’re working with Moderna to go as quickly as possible,” WHO’s vaccines chief Kate O’Brien told the online briefing.
The two vaccines are very similar, the experts said, except for the storage requirements, with the Pfizer-BioNTech jab needed to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius (-94 degrees Fahrenheit), while Moderna doses can be stored at -20 C.
With vaccine supplies still limited, the WHO has called for health workers and the most vulnerable to be prioritised and SAGE reinforced the message on Tuesday.
“In the current period of very limited vaccine supply, preferential vaccination of international travellers would counter the principle of equity,” SAGE said.
“Because of this, and the lack of evidence that vaccination reduces the risk of transmission, SAGE currently does not recommend Covid-19 vaccination of travellers.”
– Allergic reactions ‘rare’ –
SAGE also recommended Tuesday that the Moderna vaccine, like the Pfizer-BioNTech one, should only be administered in settings that can deal with potential anaphylactic reaction.
But the experts stressed this was the usual recommendation for most vaccination programmes, pointing to findings from US health authorities last week indicating that severe allergic reaction to the Moderna vaccine was “rare”.
SAGE said there was not enough data to make recommendations on the use of the Moderna jab while breastfeeding or during pregnancy.
And the experts said in situations where there was a shortage of vaccines, people who had been infected with Covid-19 in the previous six months and therefore likely had immunity could opt to postpone vaccination.
But “we are not recommending that programmes exclude individuals on that basis”, SAGE executive secretary Joachim Hombach told the briefing.
US biotechnology firm Moderna on Monday said lab studies showed its Covid-19 vaccine would remain protective against variants of the coronavirus first identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa.
But out of caution, the company will test adding a second booster of its vaccine — to make three shots in total — and has begun preclinical studies on a booster specifically for the South African variant.
“We are encouraged by these new data, which reinforce our confidence that the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine should be protective against these newly detected variants,” said Stephane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO.
“Out of an abundance of caution and leveraging the flexibility of our mRNA platform, we are advancing an emerging variant booster candidate against the variant first identified in the Republic of South Africa into the clinic.”
To study the impact of the existing vaccine, called mRNA-1273, Moderna took blood samples from eight people who had received two doses of the vaccine, and two primates that had also been immunized.
For the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the UK, there was no impact on the level of neutralizing antibodies — which bind to the virus and prevent it from invading human cells — that were produced by the shots.
But for the South African variant, B.1.351, there was a sixfold reduction in the neutralizing antibody level.
Even so, it remained above the quantity that was shown to be protective in earlier tests on primates that were infected on purpose.
The company, which carried out the studies with the National Institutes of Health, has submitted the study to a preprint server so it can be analyzed by the wider scientific community.
The EU’s medicines watchdog said on Thursday that it had brought forward the date for a decision on authorising Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine by nearly a week to January 6.
The Amsterdam-based European Medicines Agency has been under growing pressure to speed up, and earlier this week accelerated the timeframe for Pfizer/BioNTech’s jab.
The EMA had originally been due to decide on US-based Moderna’s vaccine on January 12, but said the company had submitted extra data on Thursday “ahead of schedule”.
“Taking due account of the progress made, the Committee has scheduled an extraordinary meeting on 6 January 2021 to conclude its assessment, if possible,” the EMA said, referring to the medicines committee that decides on such issues.
“The meeting planned for 12 January 2021 will be maintained if needed.”
A clinical trial of 30,400 people found the Moderna vaccine was 94.1 percent effective in preventing Covid-19 compared to a placebo, performing slightly better in younger adults compared to the elderly.
EMA chief Emer Cooke said the under-fire agency had shown it was able to respond.
“We have been able to revise the timetables for the evaluation of the Covid-19 vaccines due to the incredible efforts of everybody involved in these assessments,” Cooke said in a statement.
“The number of infections is increasing across Europe and we are aware of the huge responsibility we have to get a vaccine to the market as quickly as is feasible, whilst maintaining the robustness of our scientific review.”
With Britain and the United States having pushed through emergency authorisation of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the EMA has been under pressure to speed up, notably from Germany.
The watchdog, which moved from London last year after Brexit, will decide on a year-long “conditional marketing authorisation” for Pfizer/BioNTech on Monday, having brought the date forward from December 29.
American experts were set to discuss Thursday if Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine should be authorized, as European nations vowed to get their coronavirus inoculation campaigns rolling before the end of the year.
Surges in infections have prompted tighter restrictions in several European countries, while the United States — the worst-hit nation in the world — set a double record, with more than 3,700 deaths and 250,000 new cases in 24 hours on Wednesday.
With the US floundering in its efforts to control the virus, Moderna’s vaccine is seen as a potential boost in the fight against Covid-19, and approval from the experts’ panel on Thursday could potentially pave the way for a rollout early next week.
“Recent news on vaccines has been very positive. However, significant challenges and uncertainties remain with regard to the timing, production, and distribution of vaccines as well as their efficacy across different groups,” Jerome Powell, chair of the US Federal Reserve, said Wednesday.
“The ongoing surge in new Covid-19 cases both here, in the United States, and abroad is particularly concerning. And the next few months are likely to be very challenging.”
Should the panelists vote in favor of the Moderna vaccine, as is widely expected, the Food and Drug Administration is likely to give a green light soon after, making the US the first country to approve it.
The US has already started vaccinating people with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and is hoping to have 20 million people immunized in December.
Healthcare workers and long-term care residents are at the front of the line, and efforts are under way to convince the American public that the vaccines are safe.
The White House announced Vice President Mike Pence and his wife will get the vaccine on Friday in a public display, while a spokeswoman said President Donald Trump is “absolutely open to taking the vaccine.”
Since Trump recently recovered from a bout of Covid-19, he is thought to be currently immune.
– ‘It’s stressful’ – Known global infections are fast approaching 74 million, with more than 1.6 million deaths, and nations across Europe were battling surges in Covid-19 numbers with fears of an explosion in cases over the Christmas period.
The spikes have prompted tighter restrictions across many countries on the continent, which is nearing 500,000 deaths from the disease.
Denmark, France, Turkey and the Netherlands have all strengthened curbs, while Germany began a new partial lockdown on Wednesday to curb the spread of the virus.
“It feels like a Sunday,” said Ines Kumpl, 57, observing the deserted streets of Berlin on the first day of a new partial lockdown. “These measures are necessary but it’s stressful.”
Germany has said it will begin vaccinations on December 27, a date expected to be matched across the European Union.
France said it would receive around 1.16 million vaccine doses by year-end, with a further 2.3 million coming over the next two months.
Pressure has been mounting on the European Union to speed up approvals since Britain and the US started their immunization programs with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
– Bolsonaro U-turn – As much of the world waits to get a shot, Twitter said that it would crack down on false posts and conspiracy theories about vaccines.
The policy will include action against claims — presented without any evidence — that the vaccine is being used to intentionally cause harm or control people.
Brazil’s virus-skeptic President Jair Bolsonaro performed an about-turn on Wednesday as he backed the national mass immunization campaign.
His support came a day after he told a well-known television presenter: “I won’t get vaccinated. It’s my problem. Full stop.”
While wealthier nations have managed to secure large numbers of doses, there are concerns that poorer nations may not get access any time soon.,
Peru, which has one of the world’s highest Covid-19 mortality rates, has admitted it had no idea when it would be able to get hold of sought-after vaccine stocks.
The World Health Organization said Tuesday it is in discussions with Pfizer and Moderna about possibly including their high-tech coronavirus vaccines among early jabs for poor countries at affordable prices.
The WHO-backed Covax facility, created to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines around the world as they become available, is aiming to provide some two billion doses by the end of next year.
It has already secured hundreds of millions of doses of vaccine candidates being developed by AstraZeneca, Novavax and Sanofi-GSK.
WHO senior advisor Bruce Aylward said the organisation was looking at a range of other jabs, as well as the current frontrunners.
He said WHO was “in conversations” with Pfizer and Moderna about whether their products could be part of “early roll-out of vaccines”.
But, he stressed, “we also need to make sure that they are at prices that are appropriate for the populations we are trying to serve and the countries we are trying to help.”
US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has, along with German BioNTech, created the first coronavirus jab to receive regulatory approval in a number of Western countries. Vaccination campaigns have already begun in Britain and the United States.
The Moderna vaccine is expected to quickly receive approvals as well.
– Light, but a long tunnel – Both vaccines use cutting-edge technology and have been shown in Phase III trials to be highly effective — and they are expected to be expensive.
But Aylward hailed public comments from Pfizer chief Albert Bourla in which he talked about cutting prices for low-income countries.
“He has said we are committed to making sure that our products see global use and we recognise that requires pricing it at the right level to be able to make that work,” Aylward said.
“So there is a strong commitment from Pfizer out there to be able to do that.”
Covax wanted to have a diverse portfolio of vaccines to offer and would evaluate “any product out there with demonstrated efficacy, safety, quality”, he added.
The vaccines developed by China and Russia could also be evaluated for inclusion “if they meet the standards for efficacy and safety”, he said.
A year into the pandemic, which has claimed more than 1.6 million lives worldwide, Aylward hailed the positive vaccine news over the past month.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. But while there was “a bright light at the end of it, getting brighter, it is a long tunnel.”