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WHO Approves COVID-19 Vaccine Made by Sinopharm in China

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The World Health Organization said Friday it has approved for emergency use a coronavirus vaccine developed by Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical group Sinopharm.

Beijing’s Covid vaccine is recommended for adults 18 years and up with a two-dose regimen, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing.

The new addition to the list of usable vaccine options could hasten efforts to control the spread of Covid-19 and its variant forms, which are driving new infections in many parts of the world.

“Solving the vaccine crisis requires that we pull out all the stops,” Tedros said.

Sinopharm’s shot is the sixth to receive the WHO’s approval for “safety, efficacy and quality,” he said.

“Vaccines remain a vital tool. But right now, the volume and distribution of vaccines are insufficient to end the pandemic, without the sustained and tailored application of public health measures that we know work,” Tedros said.

“The pandemic has shown that when health is at risk, everything is at risk. But when health is protected and promoted, individuals, families, communities, economies, and nations can thrive,” he said.

The state-owned drugmaker’s two-dose Covid shot has already been approved for emergency use in China, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain.

Another Chinese shot, made by the private company Sinovac, has not yet been approved by the WHO.

In the U.S., vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson have received emergency use authorizations by the Food and Drug Administration.

The WHO has granted emergency validation for those three shots, as well as for vaccines produced by AstraZeneca-SK BIO and the Serum Institute of India.

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Omicron, WHO Gives New COVID Variant Name

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Omicron variant

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has designated the new COVID variant B.1.1.529, Omicron on Friday.

The organisation disclosed in a statement published on its website after its officials assessed data received from South Africa earlier today.

It said “The B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on 24 November 2021. The epidemiological situation in South Africa has been characterized by three distinct peaks in reported cases, the latest of which was predominantly the Delta variant. In recent weeks, infections have increased steeply, coinciding with the detection of B.1.1.529 variant. The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November 2021.”

“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning. Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa. Current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics continue to detect this variant. Several labs have indicated that for one widely used PCR test, one of the three target genes is not detected (called S gene dropout or S gene target failure) and this test can therefore be used as marker for this variant, pending sequencing confirmation. Using this approach, this variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage.”

Therefore, countries are asked to do the following:

  • enhance surveillance and sequencing efforts to better understand circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants.
  • submit complete genome sequences and associated metadata to a publicly available database, such as GISAID.
  • report initial cases/clusters associated with VOC infection to WHO through the IHR mechanism.
  • where capacity exists and in coordination with the international community, perform field investigations and laboratory assessments to improve understanding of the potential impacts of the VOC on COVID-19 epidemiology, severity, effectiveness of public health and social measures, diagnostic methods, immune responses, antibody neutralization, or other relevant characteristics.

WHO said its independent Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution (TAG-VE) will continue to evaluate this variant and communicate new findings to member states.

On Friday, Belgium reported a case of Omicron variant covid in a traveler from Egypt while Hong Kong reported two cases.

The United Kingdom, US, Israel and others have imposed restrictions on flights from South Africa and other six nations to curb Omicron outbreak in the nations.

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US, UK, EU Nations, Israel, Others Restrict Travel From South Africa

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The United States has joined the United Kingdom, Israel, European Nations and a host of others to restrict flights from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi starting from Monday.

US Senior officials announced on Friday, saying the restriction was recommended by Joe Biden’s chief medical officer and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, the restriction does not apply to US citizens or permanent residents.

The decision was after reports of a fast-spreading new covid variant called B.1.1.529 hits headline on Thursday, raising concerns it could spread across the world if nothing is done fast. On Friday, Hong Kong reported two cases of the virus while Belgium confirmed one case in a traveler from Egypt.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has designated the heavily mutated coronavirus strain ‘a variant of concern’.

WHO said the new COVID variant would be given the name Omicron after data examined by its officials showed exponential growth in cases of the B.1.1.529 Sars-Cov-2 variant.

The news plunged global financial markets, with stocks falling to their lowest in more than a year. The Standard and Poor 500 dropped 2.3 percent while Europe’s Stoxx 600 sheds 3.7 percent and the MSCI Asia-Pacific index dipped by 1.7 percent.

Crude oil dropped over $10 or more than 5 percent to $72 a barrel. Even gold, a known haven commodity, pulled back, losing its earlier gains.

“What should have been a quiet Friday trading in both bonds and equities globally has turned into a rout,” said Andrew Brenner, head of international fixed income at NatAlliance Securities.

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Npower Batch C: Payment Status Now Pending

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In an update concerning the Npower batch C volunteers, the National Social Investment Management System (NASIMS) has stated that the payment issues are one step closer to being resolved.

NASIMS stated that previous complaints about error messages like ‘Failed Payment’ and ‘No Payment Data Available’ have now been changed to pending.

In a previous update, some reasons for the failure in payment were revealed. Some of the reasons revealed were the lack of completion of a physical verification exercise, provision of wrong account details, no provision of account details at all, failure to provide Bank Verification Number or the lack of matching information on different documents.

Newsonlineng reports that NASIMS has stated that once the resolution has been effected, it cannot be instantaneous but will rather take a few days before the changes made can reflect. The site has however also confirmed that all the payment issues have been resolved days ago and that the resolution has reflected on every Batch C volunteer’s NASIMS profile page.

The profile page is now showing ‘Pending’ which is the very first page of the payment process.

By virtue of the resolution made, all the beneficiaries of Batch C of the Npower programme have been advised to login to their NASIMS page for the confirmation of the update. All the Batch C volunteers whose issues are yet to be resolved and the update yet to be reflected on their page have been encouraged to exercise patience as all the payment issues will be resolved and the payments will surely be made.

Some other information released from NASIMS include:

  1. Collation of account details as well as the resolution of problems is still going on
  2. Resolution of the payment issues have now been rectified, and the pending status seen is the first step of payment before processing
  3. For wrong account details, those affected should call the NASIMS support lines 092203102 and 018888340 to lodge complaints and provide the correct details.

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