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Nigeria, World Bank To Raise $30M For Vaccine Plant — Osinbajo

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The Vice President of Nigeria, Yemi Osinbajo said the federal government and the World Bank are working together to raise $30 million to fund a vaccine factory in the country.

VP Osinbajo discussed this on Monday in Abuja at the International Conference on “Access to Health and Socio-Economic Development Beyond Covid-19: The First Multisectoral Approach to Finding Solutions.”

The conference was organized by the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, NIPRD. He said the global health trend has made it essential for Nigeria to establish its own vaccine production facilities.

“Nigeria is in talks with the private lending arm of the World Bank and other lenders to raise around $30 million to help finance a vaccine factory.

“Bio-vaccine Nigeria Limited is chaired by Professor Oyewale Tomori; 49 percent of the company is owned by the Nigerian government with the remainder held by May and Baker Nigeria PLC and they are planning to start construction of a factory.

“ I believe in the first quarter of next year; the plant which is supposed to be located in Ota, Ogun State, will initially, we are told, fill and finish, which I’m also told, means importing the raw materials for the vaccines and then packaging them for distribution.

“Some South African companies are already involved in this task; I believe Aspen Pharmacare and Belvac Institute operate similar facilities.

“Full manufacturing, we are told, should follow in the months or years to come; I’m not quite sure when.

“So it’s obvious that the way forward is more funding for healthcare and research for innovators to develop solutions in pharmaceuticals and medical consumables.”

The Vice President said that through the discussion he had with NIPRD Director-General Dr. Obi Adigwe, he was inspired by the potential and the kind of support that the pharmaceutical industry and research agencies provided.

Osinbajo said the federal government established the Health Sector Intervention Fund which disbursed 76.9 billion naira, or about $185 million, to finance the acquisition and installation of critical medical care equipment.

He said the fund was also intended for the expansion of production lines at various pharmaceutical companies across the country.

According to him, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is also supporting a number of research and development initiatives in the health sector, as it has disbursed a total of 233 billion naira in grants.

Mr. Osinbajo said the NIPRD is also making immense contributions to developing a local cure for COVID-19.

“NIPRD has also developed an impressive variety of pharmaceutical products from indigenous resources and both the Niprimune and Niprimune plus both of which I have the pleasure of seeing, have been found to possess a reasonable property that is able to prevent or combat COVID-19.

“Both products, which have been registered by NAFDAC, are currently undergoing clinical studies at various levels with a view to production approval for emergency use.

“NIPRD Director-General Dr. Obi Adigwe assured that around the same time next year, the institute will launch three new products currently under development at its centers for nanomedicine, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“It is this proactive approach that we must adopt in the face of the slow access to vaccines in Africa and of course in Nigeria.

“Although we have received help from some friendly countries and the Covax alliance, less than 4 percent of our eligible population would have been vaccinated by the end of this year.

“There is no doubt that we cannot afford not to have our own vaccine production facilities.”

He said the COVID-19 pandemic was a revelation for him in five different ways: the unpreparedness of most developed economies; vaccine reluctance and the danger of conspiracy theory and misinformation, especially in a public health crisis.

VP Osinbajo said the fourth revelation was that, in terms of the COVID-19-wide global health crisis, help should not be expected.

“The fifth revelation is that despite infrastructure weaknesses, in Nigeria we have an experienced and robust public health system, populated by some of the best staff in the world.

“But more importantly, we have the opportunity to become one of the leading countries in healthcare,” he said.

Earlier, in his welcoming address, Adigwe said the conference was the first of its kind to bring together multidisciplinary academics to engage, innovate and synthesize new approaches to solving global health challenges.

Keynote speaker Prof Joseph Fortunak, who spoke virtually, said COVID-19 exposed the vulnerability of the pharmaceutical supply chain and urged Nigeria to take drug manufacturing seriously.

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Omicron, WHO Gives New COVID Variant Name

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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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