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Coronavirus – Africa: WHO calls for equitable access to future COVID-19 vaccines in Africa

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The World Health Organization (WHO) in Africa (www.Afro.WHO.int) joined immunization experts in urging the international community and countries in Africa to take concrete actions to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, as researchers around the world race to find effective protection against the virus.

“It is clear that as the international community comes together to develop safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19, equity must be a central focus of these efforts,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “Too often, African countries end up at the back of the queue for new technologies, including vaccines. These life-saving products must be available to everyone, not only those who can afford to pay.”

WHO and partners launched the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator to speed up the development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. It brings together leaders of government, global health organizations civil society groups, businesses and philanthropies to form a plan for an equitable response to the COVID-19 pandemic. WHO is collaborating with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to ensure a fair allocation of vaccines to all countries, aiming to deliver 2 billion doses globally for high-risk populations, including 1 billion for low and middle-income countries.

The African Union has endorsed the need for Africa to develop a framework to actively engage in the development and access to COVID-19 vaccines. Countries can take steps now that will strengthen health systems, improve immunization delivery, and pave the way for the introduction of a COVID-19 vaccine. These include: mobilizing financial resources; strengthening local vaccine manufacturing, and regulatory, supply and distribution systems; building workforce skills and knowledge; enhancing outreach services; and listening to community concerns to counter misinformation.

Globally, there are nearly 150 COVID-19 vaccine candidates and currently 19 are in clinical trials. South Africa is the first country on the continent to start a clinical trial with the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg testing a vaccine developed by the Oxford Jenner Institute in the United Kingdom. The South African Ox1Cov-19 Vaccine VIDA-Trial is expected to involve 2000 volunteers aged 18–65 years and include some people living with HIV. The vaccine is already undergoing trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil with thousands of participants.

According to the African Academy of Sciences only 2% of clinical trials conducted worldwide occur in Africa. It is important to test the COVID-19 vaccine in countries where it is needed to ensure that it will be effective. With more than 215 000 cases, South Africa accounts for 43% of the continent’s total cases. Clinical trials must be performed according to international and national scientific and ethical standards, which include informed consent for any participant.

“I encourage more countries in the region to join these trials so that the contexts and immune response of populations in Africa are factored in to studies,” said Dr Moeti. “Africa has the scientific expertise to contribute widely to the search for an effective COVID-19 vaccine. Indeed, our researchers have helped develop vaccines which provide protection against communicable diseases such as meningitis, Ebola, yellow fever and a number of other common health threats in the region.”

Earlier, this month WHO Africa’s principle advisory group on immunization policies and programmes – the African Regional Immunization Technical Advisory Group (RITAG) – also noted the need to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 and other vaccines in the region.

“As the world focuses on finding a vaccine for COVID-19, we must ensure people do not forget that dozens of lifesaving vaccines already exist. These vaccines should reach children everywhere in Africa – no one can be left behind,” said Professor Helen Rees, Chair of the RITAG.

Initial analysis of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on immunization in the African Region suggests that millions of African children are likely to be negatively impacted, as routine immunization services and vaccination campaigns for polio, cholera, measles, yellow fever, meningitis and human papilloma virus have been disrupted.

Despite these challenges, RITAG members also noted significant milestones and markers of progress. For example, there have been tremendous gains in the fight against wild poliovirus, and the African Region is expected to be officially certified free of wild poliovirus in August 2020. The Democratic Republic of the Congo also announced the end of its 10th Ebola outbreak in eastern DRC, which was the worst in its history. An effective vaccine was a key tool in the response.

Dr Moeti spoke about COVID-19 vaccine development in Africa during a virtual press conference today organized by APO Group. She was joined by Professor Shabir Madhi, University of Witwatersrand, Principal Investigator of Oxford Covid-19 Vaccine Trial in South Africa; and Professor Pontiano Kaleebu, Director of the MCR/UVRI and LSHTM Ugandan Research Unit. The briefing was streamed on more than 300 African news sites as well as the WHO Regional Office for Africa’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.

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COVID-19: Nigeria Records 1Million Test

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REMARKS BY THE CHAIRMAN OF THE PRESIDENTIAL TASK FORCE ON COVID-19 FOR THURSDAY, 7th JANUARY, 2021
I welcome you all to the National Briefing by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 for today, Thursday, 7th January, 2021.
2. The PTF is very concerned about the increasing daily numbers that we are recording. Yesterday 6th January, 2021, we recorded 1,664 infections. This is yet another all-time high in Nigeria and we must all take full responsibility through compliance and vigilance.
It is better to wear a face mask than being on a ventilator.
3. In our previous briefings, we have consistently appealed to all Nigerians to stay safe and act in most defensive and protective ways by complying with the NPIs already prescribed. We urge you all, at this point, to raise and be our brother’s keeper by taking the expected responsibility. Remind your neighbor to do the right thing in view of the imminent danger facing us as a country and the world in general.
4. Our records show that our test per million (TPM) is at 4,695 while our test positivity rate (TPR) is at 9.6% and our Case Fatality Rate has increased to 3% haven recorded 1,324 deaths, these data are not encouraging. Nigeria just crossed the 1million mark for testing across the federation. Testing remains a key strategy of our National Response
5.
The PTF urges the Sub-Nationals to revamp testing and contact tracing in the bid to curb the menace of this dreaded virus. It is only through testing that we can know our status and treat early if infected. This will provide among other things, evidence for effective feedback, course correction, experience learning and sharing, as well as optimize documentation systems for future reference.
6. Efforts are being made to increase the supply of oxygens to our health facilities across the country. Mr. President has approved the establishment of at least one new Oxygen plants in each state of the Federation, while the existing ones will be made fully functional.
We continue to thanks the Private Sector initiative as well as the Nigerian Air Force for their continued support.
7. As the Government is working round the clock to secure a safe and right vaccines for the Country, we call on the Media, Traditional and Religious as well as our community leaders to pass the right message to their followers so that together, we can win this war against this virus.
8. To overcome some of these challenges, the PTF will intensify the risk communication and community engagement to create awareness. The share level of doubts about the virus is alarming and I call on every one to become advocates in support of the National Response.
9. The PTF is working to develop new Health Protection Regulations to support existing COVID-19 protocols and to strengthen compliance with non-pharmaceutical interventions across the country.
10. It has become embarrassing to note that some Nigerians continue to present fake results when travelling outside the shores of this country. This remains a major source of concern to the Federal Government. The PTF has directed private laboratories to immediately put in place measures to validate results and ensure that all passengers are registered on the travel portal before samples are processed to stop this activity. The National Coordinator will elaborate on this during this briefing.
11. The PTF is aware that the world is at a critical phase of infections. We are constantly reviewing our strategy to emerging situations especially in risk communication, vaccine hesitancy, fake news/disinformation.
12. We call on the general public to remain focused on the drive to reduce the level of infection and make our Country safe again. We urge the Sub-Nationals to enforce relevant measures that will help to curb the effect of this virus on our lives and livelihood. …………………..
PRESS BRIEFING BY THE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE HON. MINISTER OF STATE FOR HEALTH, DR. (SENATOR) OLORUNNIMBE MAMORA AT THE PRESIDENTIAL TASK ON COVID -19 PRESS BRIEFING ON THURSDAY 7TH JANUARY, 2021. PROTOCOL As of yesterday 6th January, 2021 New cases recorded were 1,354 with 1 death recorded unfortunately. Total number of cases tested is 1,004,915. Number of confirmed cases is 94,369. Active cases stand at 15,764. Discharged cases till date are 77,299. Number of deaths till date is 1,324 with case fatality rate of 1.4% 2. The Federal Government is determined to ensure morbidity due to covid -19 is reduced to the barest minimum while improving on the fatality rate. Appropriate measures are being taken to achieve these objectives. 3. A second phase assessment of our isolation/treatment centres country-wide to verify challenges is to be carried out immediately. This is to enable us provide appropriate intervention measures required to strengthen these centres. 4. We are not unmindful of our obligations to our health workers particularly those in the frontline. We appreciate them and urge Nigerians to encourage them in this challenging pandemic situation so that they can continue to give their best. 5. We are working very hard to get vaccines for our people. It may not come soon enough, therefore we need to be alive to get the vaccines when they come. I have brought this up to under score the importance of compliance with non-pharmaceutical measures as advised to reduce transmissibility of the virus. 6. We continue to appeal to States to increase testing and contact tracing. The cooperation of the States with the Federal authorities is critical to our collective objective of defeating COVID-19.

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UNICEF, WHO rally support for breastfeeding

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The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the  World Health Organisation (WHO) say that they are rallying supports for breastfeeding as the first pathway to preserving a  healthier planet.

The Nutritional Officer of  UNICEF in Ebonyi, Mr Cyprain Ogbonna,  gave the encouragement to people on Saturday in Abakaliki during an event to mark the starting of the  2020 celebration of World Breastfeeding week.

The theme of the World Breastfeeding Week 2020 is “Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet”.

The event is marked every year between Aug. 1 and  Aug. 7 to raise awareness on the importance of breastfeeding for mothers and infants.

Ogbonna said that adequate breastfeeding had, over the years , prevented several childhood diseases and brought  lifelong positive benefits associated with child spacing.

He said  that other benefits include: risk reduction for some breast and ovarian cancers as well as hypertension.

He described breast milk as a nature-given-first food that needed to be preserved for its undebatable benefits to a mother and her baby.

He added that the milk was a critical part of a sustainable food system.

He said that it would be best to start breastfeeding within one hour of birth and exclusively done for the  first six months of life, after which mothers should introduce  appropriate complementary foods to her baby for  two years and beyond.

He  stated that misuse of breast milk substitutes should be condemned.

He advised that breastfeeding should be maintained, but hygienically done during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Ogbonna said: “Mothers are recommended to breastfeed their child or children within 30 minutes of birth.

“While mothers doing exclusive breastfeeds go for the first six months of life.

“Also mother or caregiver timely introduces complementary feeding based on local food products at six months while continuing breastfeeding up to two years and beyond,” he said.

Also, the Nutrition Manager of UNICEF in Enugu, Hanifa Namusoke, said that she had championed the cause in Ebonyi to increase the valve and improve the well being of mother and child.

Namusoke said in line with the theme, WHO and UNICEF called on governments to protect and promote a critical component of breastfeeding support.

“Breast milk is complete for a healthier planet and that is why WHO and UNICEF recommend optimal infant and young child feeding practices with emphasis on early initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of birth,” Namusoke said.

NAN

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Covid-19: FCT Minister tasks health professionals on synergy

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The FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Bello, on Friday enjoined all health professionals to collaborate with each other to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bello gave the advice when a delegation from the FCT Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) paid a courtesy call on him in Abuja.

He noted that the successes recorded in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic was largely due to the synergy between the various health professionals in the FCT.

Bello, therefore, urged them to continue to function as a unified team in the fight against COVID-19.

The minister commended the good works of all the health workers in the FCT especially for their efforts at combating the Coronavirus disease.

He pledged that the FCT Administration would continue to partner with the PSN as a large number of its members are staff of the FCTA who are also involved in the fight against the COVID-19.

Bello urged the PSN to forge a robust relationship with the National Drug Law enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in order to reduce the menace of drug abuse among residents of the territory.

Earlier, Chairman of the FCT PSN, Mr Jelili Kilani, commended the FCTA for the support it has always rendered to the association.

Kilani emphasised the need for greater collaboration between the PSN and the FCTA.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the PSN used the visit to donates Personal Protective Equipments, First Aid materials and hand hygiene products to the FCTA.

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