American Pharmaceutical giant, Johnson & Johnson (J&J), announced yesterday that it was starting safe human trials with its COVID-19 vaccine after its study on monkeys showed that its best-performing vaccine candidate offered strong protection in a single dose.
A published study in the journal, Nature, stated that during the conduct of the trials, when exposed to the virus, 6 out of 6 animals who were given the experimental vaccine were completely protected from lung disease. Also, 5 out of the 6 animals were protected from infection as measured by the presence of the virus in nasal swaps.
The Chief Scientific Officer of J&J, Dr. Paul Stoffels, in a telephone conversation with Reuters said, ‘’This gives us confidence that we can test a single-shot vaccine in this epidemic and learn whether it has a protective effect in humans.”
J&J said that it had started early-stage human trials in the United States and Belgium and would test the experimental vaccine on more than 1,000 healthy adults that are aged between 18 to 55 years, as well as adults who are 65 years and above.
It was also revealed that the United States Government is supporting J&J’s vaccine development with $456 million in funding as part of its massive financial commitment to help intensify development and production of a vaccine to stop the pandemic, which has infected over 16.7 million people and killed more than 660,000 people.
Stoffels said that initial tests of this vaccine on other diseases discovered that a second shot significantly increases protection. But in a pandemic, a single-shot vaccine has a significant advantage, sidestepping a lot of the logistical issues involved in getting people to come back for their second dose.
READ MORE: Nigeria blows past 40,000 COVID-19 cases
He said that data shows that the Coronavirus experimental vaccine generated a strong antibody response and provided protection with only a single dose.
The company wants to take up the question of one or two doses in its first phase of the trial.
Stoffels pointed out that depending on the result that is gotten, J&J plans to start large scale phase 3 testing with a single dose regimen in the second half of September. The company hopes to start a parallel phase 3 study testing of a 2 dose regimen of the vaccine around the same time.
The white house coronavirus task force coordinator, Deborah Birx, during an interview with Fox News said, “The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is exciting because it’s a single dose. Having one dose show protection in monkeys like the other vaccines have shown with two doses does shorten the time period for development because your readout becomes 30 days quicker.”
J&J’s technology is really based on the human adenovirus, a type of common cold virus, it’s an approach that is perhaps best known for its use in an Ebola vaccine.
In the monkey study, scientists from J&J and Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center studied seven different potential vaccines in 32 animals and compared the results to 20 control animals who got placebo shots.
All of the animals were exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus 6 weeks later and the 20 animals that received the placebo developed high levels of virus in their lungs and nasal swabs.
In the best-performing candidate, which J&J selected for human testing, none of the animals had the virus in their lungs and only one showed low levels of virus in nasal swabs. Lab tests showed they all had developed antibodies capable of neutralizing the virus after a single shot.
Recall that Nairametrics had earlier reported that another American biotech firm, Moderna’s experimental vaccine showed positive outcomes in animals as it induced a robust response and protected against infection in a study on monkeys. This has been followed up with experimental trials on humans.
Although other COVID-19 vaccine developers appear ahead, with AstraZeneca having already administered its experimental vaccine to almost 10,000 people in the UK, gaining protection with a single dose could prove an advantage in the logistical challenge of rolling out massive vaccination programmes globally.
Covid-19: WHO, partners to provide access to 15-minute tests in 133 countries
Some nonprofit organizations in collaboration with WHO are set to make 120 million antigen tests accessible to low and middle-income countries.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and some nonprofit organizations have agreed to help provide access to 120 million antigen tests to 133 low and middle-income countries that can provide results in 15-30 minutes rather than hours or days.
This will enable expansion of testing, particularly in countries that do not have extensive laboratory facilities or trained health workers to implement molecular polymerase chain reactions (PCR) tests.
Apart from the WHO, other organizations involved in this milestone agreement announced by the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator include the Bills & Melinda Foundation, the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) and the Global Fund, Unitaid.
The tests which are developed by Abbott Laboratories and SD Biosensor are highly portable, reliable, and easy to administer, making testing possible in near-person, decentralized healthcare settings.
Both companies’ tests are faster and cheaper than laboratory-based tests, enabling countries to increase the pace of testing, tracing and treating people for COVID-19 at the point of care particularly in areas with under-resourced health systems. The 2 firms are reserving a fifth of their production to countries most in need. The distribution will begin in October.
The agreements between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the test manufacturers, Abbott and SD Biosensor, make available innovative tests that will cost $5 each or less.
The Global Fund is also participating; though further funding is needed. They are committing an initial $50 million to enable countries to purchase the new tests, with the first orders expected to be placed this week.
The WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said, “High-quality rapid tests show us where the virus is hiding, which is key to quickly tracing and isolating contacts and breaking the chains of transmission. The tests are a critical tool for governments as they look to reopen economies and ultimately save both lives and livelihoods.’’
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He said the quicker the coronavirus disease is diagnosed, the faster action can be taken to isolate and treat those with the virus and trace their contacts. The tests are a critical tool for governments as they look to reopen economies and ultimately save both lives and livelihoods.
COVID-19 Update in Nigeria
On the 28th of September 2020, 136 new confirmed cases and 3 deaths were recorded in Nigeria
The spread of novel Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) in Nigeria continues to record increases as the latest statistics provided by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control reveal Nigeria now has 58,460 confirmed cases.
On the 28th of September 2020, 136 new confirmed cases and 3 deaths were recorded in Nigeria, having carried out a total daily test of 1,450 samples across the country.
To date, 58,460 cases have been confirmed, 49,895 cases have been discharged and 1,111 deaths have been recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. A total of 507,006 tests have been carried out as of September 28th, 2020 compared to 505,556 tests a day earlier.
COVID-19 Case Updates- 28th September 2020,
- Total Number of Cases – 58,460
- Total Number Discharged – 49,895
- Total Deaths – 1,111
- Total Tests Carried out – 507,006
According to the NCDC, the 136 new cases were reported from 13 states- Lagos (71), Rivers (23), Plateau (12), Adamawa (6), Oyo (6), Kaduna (5), Abia (3), FCT (3), Katsina (2), Kwara (2), Bauchi (1), Borno (1), Edo (1).
Meanwhile, the latest numbers bring Lagos state total confirmed cases to 19,310, followed by Abuja (5,677), Plateau (3,400), Oyo (3,260), Edo (2,625), Kaduna (2,402), Rivers (2,370), Ogun (1,836), Delta (1,802), Kano (1,737), Ondo (1,631), Enugu (1,289), Ebonyi (1,040), Kwara (1,034), Abia (894), Gombe (864). Katsina (859), Osun (827), Borno (742), and Bauchi (699).
Imo State has recorded 568 cases, Benue (481), Nasarawa (449), Bayelsa (398), Jigawa (325), Ekiti (321), Akwa Ibom (288), Niger (259), Adamawa (240), Anambra (237), Sokoto (162), Taraba (95), Kebbi (93), Cross River (87), Zamfara (78), Yobe (76), while Kogi state has recorded 5 cases only.
Lock Down and Curfew
In a move to combat the spread of the pandemic disease, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the cessation of all movements in Lagos and the FCT for an initial period of 14 days, which took effect from 11 pm on Monday, 30th March 2020.
The movement restriction, which was extended by another two-weeks period, has been partially put on hold with some businesses commencing operations from May 4. On April 27th, 2020, Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari declared an overnight curfew from 8 pm to 6 am across the country, as part of new measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19. This comes along with the phased and gradual easing of lockdown measures in FCT, Lagos, and Ogun States, which took effect from Saturday, 2nd May 2020, at 9 am.
On Monday, 29th June 2020 the federal government extended the second phase of the eased lockdown by 4 weeks and approved interstate movement outside curfew hours with effect from July 1, 2020. Also, on Monday 27th July 2020, the federal government extended the second phase of eased lockdown by an additional one week.
On Thursday, 6th August 2020 the federal government through the secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 announced the extension of the second phase of eased lockdown by another four (4) weeks.
Lagos launches N5 billion support fund for 2,000 low-cost private schools
The Governor said the facility will benefit low-cost schools with amounts ranging from N500,000 to N5 million.
Lagos State government has launched a N5billion support fund to help reduce the impact of Coronavirus pandemic on low-cost private schools in the state.
This was disclosed by the Governor of the state, Babajide Sanwo-Olu via his Twitter handle on Friday.
According to him, the educational sector is one of those severely impacted by the pandemic, with schools and vocational learning-centres shut since March.
He said, “With access to funding for privately owned schools and vocational training centres in the state, we are confident that this programme, under the partnership between First Bank Nigeria and Lagos State Education Trust Fund (LSETF) will help accelerate a sustainable return to learning and skills acquisition.”
Today, I launched a N5bn support fund to help reduce the impact of #COVID19 on low-cost private schools in Lagos. The educational sector is one of those severely impacted by the pandemic, with schools and vocational learning-centres shut since March. #EducationMeetsFunding pic.twitter.com/PrKjLhxBXq
— Babajide Sanwo-Olu (@jidesanwoolu) September 25, 2020
He explained that the facility will benefit 2,000 low-cost schools with amounts ranging from N500,000 to N5 million.
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“As a responsible Government, we are obligated to provide interventions that would enable learners in schools study in line with the new normal,” the Governor Sanwo-Olu added.
The Chief Executive Officer, First Bank Nigeria, Dr Adesola Adeduntan, said “With this partnership, we are sure that registered educational institutions in Lagos State will have access to funds at subsidised interest rates to meet their needs as they reopen at this auspicious time.”