WHO alerts to fake COVID-19 vaccines as FG receives more doses, begins vaccination

• Warns that new, more dangerous variants of concern may emerge
• Hundreds besiege Abuja FMC for vaccination 
• After deaths of three professors, UI reverts to virtual lectures
• NIMC Lagos office shut as worker contracts COVID-19

As Nigeria commences rollout of the phase two of vaccination programme with 4,000,080 Moderna vaccines donated by the United States of America (USA), the World Health Organisation (WHO), yesterday, alerted of the falsified COVISHIELD Coronavirus vaccine (Recombinant) in circulation.

The falsified products were reported to WHO in July and August. The genuine manufacturer of COVISHIELD (Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd.) confirmed that the falsified products were first reported at the patient level in Uganda and India.

According to a statement by WHO, falsified COVID-19 vaccines pose a serious risk to global public health and place an additional burden on vulnerable populations and health systems.

The United Nations apex health body said it is important to detect and remove these falsified products from circulation to prevent harm to patients. WHO also called for increased vigilance within the supply chains of countries and regions likely to be affected by these falsified products.

It noted: “Increased vigilance should include hospitals, clinics, health centers, wholesalers, distributors, pharmacies, and any other suppliers of medical products. All medical products must be obtained from authorized/licensed suppliers. The products’ authenticity and physical condition should be carefully checked.”

WHO, yesterday, also warned that Delta variant of COVID-19 is on the path to becoming the dominant strain worldwide as surge in the highly transmissible variant increases urgency for vaccinating large numbers of vulnerable people.

It said that rising infection rates resulting in increased hospitalisations are overwhelming health systems and leaving many countries in urgent need of life-saving oxygen.

WHO further warned that while four variants of concern currently dominate the epidemiology, there are fears that new, and possibly more dangerous variants of concern, may emerge.

WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “US$7.7 billion is needed urgently to address the Delta surge and put the world on track to ending the pandemic. This investment is a tiny portion of the amount governments are spending to deal with COVID-19. If these funds aren’t made available now to stop the transmission of Delta in the most vulnerable countries, we will undoubtedly all pay the consequences later in the year.”
About 40 million doses will be delivered to Nigeria from now till the third quarter of 2022 through the African Union’s African Vaccine Acquisitions Task Team (AVATT), while the country has committed a total of about $300 million for the order it has made.

MEANWHILE, the flag off of Phase 2 COVID-19 vaccination started on a positive note, as hundreds of Abuja residents besieged the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Jabi, to have their first jab of the Moderna vaccine. 

Chairman, Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, observed that the country would continue to invest in and access safe and effective vaccines.x

The SGF stated that it is now the responsibility of every Nigerian to register and get vaccinated so that the country could achieve the desired herd immunity of vaccinating at least 70 per cent of eligible population. 

The Executive Secretary of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib, disclosed that Nigeria, on Monday, received 698,880 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the UK Government through the COVAX facility. 

According to him, “the doses will be targeted at those that are due for their second dose of AstraZeneca vaccine while in the next couple of weeks, the country will be expecting up to 3.9 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines to complement what it already had.”

Shuaib noted that the agency is fully aware that, because Nigeria has started receiving different brands of COVID-19 vaccine, a lot of concerns were being raised on what brand differences would mean to the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines. 

He assured Nigerians that all brands of COVID-19 vaccine used in the country are certified by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) as safe and effective, especially against the Delta variant.

NAFDAC had granted emergency use authorisation for three COVID-19 vaccines – Moderna, AstraZeneca (from Korea) and Sputnik V. The AstraZeneca approved is from Korea due to the stall in the procurement of AstraZeneca vaccine from India.

The agency had previously approved AstraZeneca (India), Pfizer bioNTech and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines in February and May 2021 respectively.

When The Guardian visited the VIP area where the vaccination was being administered, more than 100 persons were seen anxiously waiting for their turn to take the jab.  

One of the people waiting to be vaccinated, Hamzat Yusuf, said he felt it was medically safe to be vaccinated so that he can go about his business without any fear. He said: “I had to wait for some people to take the vaccine so I can access the reactions on them before I volunteer to take the vaccine.”

The Federal Government has warned against hoarding of the vaccines, even as it expressed commitment to ensuring that Nigerians have unfettered access to the vaccines.  

Nigeria had commenced COVID-19 vaccination on March 5, 2021, having received approximately four million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines from COVAX.

This led to the successful vaccination of 3,938,945 eligible persons across 36 states and FCT, representing 98 per cent utilisation of the vaccines.

According to Shuaib, 2,534,205 people have been vaccinated for the first dose and 1,404,205 have received their second dose of the vaccine.

To achieve herd immunity against the infection, Nigeria had set an ambitious goal of vaccinating 40 per cent of its over 200 million population before the end of 2021, and 70 per cent by the end of 2022.

FOLLOWING the loss of three of the institution’s professors to the rampaging pandemic within days, authorities at the University of Ibadan (UI) have announced the adoption of a blended mode of teaching on campus for the rest of the ongoing second semester examination.x

The decision was contained in a statement issued yesterday by the university’s Registrar, Olubunmi Faluyi. The statement also confirmed the increasing number of coronavirus cases at both the main campus of the university, its college of medicine and college hospital.

One of the late professors, David Olaleye, was a key part of the Oyo State COVID-19 task force and the head of the clinical virology laboratory where COVID-19 tests are being conducted in the state.

The Guardian gathered that the result of a laboratory test, which confirmed Olaleye positive, was only received after his death.

The university management said the increasing COVID-19 cases call for caution and proactive actions, which includes a review of mode of teaching and learning.

It also noted that all residents, workers on the campus and users of its facilities must ensure compliance with COVID-19 protocols.

The statement reads in part: “This is to inform the University community that management has requested the faculties to identify the courses to be taught online and those to be taught physically en route to the commencement of the blended mode of teaching and learning for the remaining part of the second semester of the 2020/2021 session.”

ON its part, the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) has shut down its Lagos headquarters after one of its staff members tested positive for COVID-19. It was gathered that the worker, who is in the customer care unit, tested positive for the virus last Monday.

An official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said several workers of the agency had also been ill. The source said: “Other staff have been reporting one form of illness or the other. I am not feeling well as well, hoping I have not contracted the virus.”

A memo to workers of the agency showed that the Lagos office would be shut from Monday, August 16. The memo read: “Good day #TeamLagos. This is to officially notify all members of staff of the temporary closure of the NIMC Lagos State Office, Alausa, from Monday, August 16 to Friday, August 20, 2021, to enable management to fumigate and sanitise the offices. Enrolment activities will resume on Monday, August 23.

“Meanwhile, ensure you observe all COVID-19 protocols in all the LGAs/ LCDAs. You will be notified by your state coordinators immediately we get receipt of PPEs from the HQ. Please stay safe.”

When asked why it took a week after the detection for the NIMC to shut down for fumigation, the source said NIMC headquarters just approved the request of the Lagos management.

NIMC Public Relations Officer, Kayode Adegoke, denied knowledge of the COVID-19 case, adding that the fumigation was being done by the Lagos State Government.

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