With the many controversies surrounding the administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine to protect citizens from the covid-19 disease, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has stressed that the benefits of taking the vaccine far outweigh the risks.
This came as the World Health Organisation (WHO) also declared that AstraZeneca Plc’s COVID-19 vaccine should continue to be administered as the benefits outweigh its risks.
Over 20 countries across the globe have suspended the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine due to random cases of blood-clotting, which has not yet been scientifically linked with vaccination. They have temporarily suspended the vaccination as a precautionary measure while they carry out further investigations and analyses.
Speaking during an interview on Channels Television in Abuja yesterday, the Director-General, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, stated that the agency is not nonchalantly approving the emergency use of the vaccine, but predicates its decision on its detailed findings and recommendations from more mature regulatory agencies and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
She noted that out of over 17 million people vaccinated worldwide, sadly, only 37 persons have been reported to have adverse events from taking the vaccine. This, according to her, should not be a basis to suspend the ongoing vaccination of Nigerians.
She said: “We gave the AstraZeneca vaccine emergency use authorisation and this took place after exhaustively going over the data that was contained in the dossier. This was after more mature regulatory agencies have approved. It was after the World Health Organisation (WHO) approved for emergency use listing. So, we did not do this nonchalantly at all because the health of our people is prime to NAFDAC.
“However, when it comes to the development of any product, there are phases in which the product goes through – preclinical, clinical phase that is made up of phases – 1, 2, and 3, and then post-marketing or pharmacovigilance phase.
“These vaccines have been studied up to the phase 3 clinical trials. Where we are right now is post-marketing pharmacovigilance or what we call phase 4. When a product is developed in this emergency approval, it is still being watched and studied because no regulatory agency has given it full assent because it is still under study.
“There will be more information coming out. Part of the information up to phase 3 clinical trial is safety and efficacy. If the side effects or adverse events are very few, in which case the risks are so minimal compared to the benefits, most of the time that product is approved.
“AstraZeneca for example, 17 million people have been injected with it in Europe, UK, and only 37 cases (I don’t want to use that only carelessly because it is 37 individuals). But when you look at 37 reaction cases compared to 17 million, you’re talking of 0.000002 per cent. That is very small. If we have to stop the use of a medicine with a risk of 0.000002 per cent, then we will not have medicines at all.”
However, the Chairman of the International Institutes of Advanced Research and Training, Prof Philip Njemanze, has faulted the Federal Government’s ongoing vaccination strategy. He stated that the planned mass vaccination of Nigerians does not make medical sense, as such vaccinations are only carried out when a disease is widespread in a population.
He stated that the current number of infections in the country which is not up to 200,000 is not a basis for deciding to vaccinate nearly 200 million people in order to achieve herd immunity. Furthermore, he believes Nigeria is not experiencing the pandemic compared to other countries in Europe and America.
In her reaction, the NAFDAC boss said: “We are seeing variants of the COVID-19 virus developing, and we do not know what will happen tomorrow. COVID-19 may become a seasonal disease. When you have such a disease, you have got to get your vaccination and that cannot be overemphasised because of the seriousness of the disease.
“The approach that he is talking about I will say is logical but not a medically-based approach because we develop drugs every day and we make drugs every day and we see side effects. This is usually when beyond proof the benefits outweigh the risk.
“I could see the perspective of Prof. Njemanze, however, this is not the first drug that will be on the emergency use authorisation, and this is not the first vaccine that is being used for COVID-19.”
Ramadan: Osinbajo Preaches Love, Kindness, Generosity
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has urged Muslim faithful in Nigeria to devote themselves to higher virtues of kindness, love and generosity towards one another as they observe Ramadan.
The vice president spoke with State House correspondents shortly after presiding over the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting on Wednesday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Muslims in Nigeria on Tuesday joined their counterparts around the world to begin the 30 days Ramadan fasting.
“I must express my very sincere greetings to our Muslim brothers and sisters who have begun the Ramadan fast already.
“This is not just a time for abstinence from food, drink and other worldly pleasures; it is a time of rededication to the higher virtues — love, kindness, generosity, and consideration for others regardless of faith or ethnicity.
“And also for our nation, the time, I believe to recommit ourselves to unity, brotherhood, to peace and reconciliation in various ways so that our country will achieve all of the objectives that we set for ourselves.
“So, I wish our Muslim brothers and sisters a very happy period of Ramadan; Ramadan Kareem,” he said.
FEC Approves N20.1bn to Equip Customs Equipment
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday approved a total of N20,114,002871 for the acquisition of various operational equipment for the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS).
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, disclosed this to State House Correspondents after the week’s virtual FEC meeting presided by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The Minister said further that Council also approved the sum of N539,277, 673 for construction of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) building at the Ilupeju Medium and Small Taxpayers’ office.
Speaking on the contracts approved for Customs, the Minister said a total of 427 operational vehicles, worth N14.55 billion and nine assorted gunboats worth N5,564,002,871 were all approved.
“The ministry also presented, on behalf of the Nigerian Customs Service, a memo that was seeking for Council’s approval for the design, construction and supply of two NC36M patrol boats, in favour of Messrs of Boat Plus Limited, in the sum of N5,062,530,400, inclusive of 7.5% VAT with a delivery period of 12 months and council approved our request.
“We also presented a memo, again on behalf of the Nigerian Customs Service, for the approval of Council for the design, construction and supply of seven fast assault patrol boats and seven regular patrol boats, in favour of Messrs Siwa West Africa Limited, in the sum of N501,472,471.08, inclusive of 7.5% VAT with a delivery period of eight weeks.
“The purpose of the purchase of these two types of petrol boats is to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of operations of the Nigerian Customs Service in its bid to control smuggling and also ensure enhanced efficiency in all customs duty operations in the Marine Unit of the Nigerian Customs Service.
“We also presented, again on behalf of the Nigeria Customs Service, a request for Council’s approval and council approved the procurement of 427 operational vehicles for the Nigerian Customs Service operations in favour of various contractors in the combined sum of N14.55 billion, inclusive of 7.5% VAT with a delivery period of four weeks”, she said.
Also addressing State House Correspondents after the meeting, Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who spoke on behalf of the Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, said Council approved a project for the extension of the University of Ibadan’s library at the sum of N532 million.
“The Minister of Education also presented a memo for the award of contract for the construction and furnishing of the extension of the library of the University of Ibadan. The memo, which was approved, is at the cost of N532,609,000 and with a completion period of 48 weeks.
“It was a memo that was very well received because of the need to actually extend the library facility in the University. For many years, the library of the University of Ibadan had needed real extension, given the surge of the student population”, he said.
Lagos Pegs 2021 Umrah Fare For N1.37M
The Lagos State Muslim Pilgrims Welfare Board has pegged the fare for performing the Y2021 Umrah (lesser Hajj) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at N1.37 million, being the least package fees.
The Executive Secretary of the Board, Mr. Rahman Ishola, who disclosed this in a statement issued by the Board on Tuesday, added that the exercise, which comes up during the last 10 days of the Holy month of Ramadan, has two different packages that the intending pilgrims can choose from.
He said, “The first package at a cost of N1.37 million includes stay at a Three-Star Hotel; Sahur (Morning meal) and Iftar (Evening meal) in Nigerian delicacies; Economy Class ticket with a reputable airline; Executive and convenient local transportation; five days stay in Madinah, including three days isolation period; COVID-19 tests in Makkah and Madinah; visitation to historical sites and two-to-a-room accommodation”.
“The subscribers to the second package at a cost of N2.7 million would be accommodated at the Five-Star Ajyad Makareem Hotel in Makkah and Coral Hotel in Madinah. This is in addition to other benefits contained in the first package like Sahur and Iftar among others”, Ishola added.
The Board Secretary explained that the increase in fare was due to the strict implementation of the COVID-19 protocols by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health, emphasising that the Umrah exercise will hold between April 27 and 15 May 2021, and urged interested Muslims to seize the opportunity provided by the Board to make their payment as soon as possible.
He also encouraged those who had already made initial deposits to endeavour to pay up the balance for the package of their choice and forward evidence of payment (teller/bank receipt) and International Passport to the Board on or before April 18, 2021, for further necessary action.
Ishola stated that it is mandatory for all the intending pilgrims to get the COVID-19 vaccine before embarking on the pilgrimage, stressing that without the vaccination, they would be denied entry into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
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