The United Kingdom has approved Covid-19 Vaccine produced by Pfizer/BioNTech and will start distributing from next week. The approval by UK Regulatory authorities makes the country the first to approve the vaccine in the world.
The emergency authorization clears the way for the rollout of the vaccine which had been certified to be 95% effective in preventing illness in the final analysis of phase 3 trial, from early next week.
The vaccine is given in two shots (doses).
According to reports monitored by Nairametrics, the vaccine will be administered firstly to medical workers and home caregivers, frontline health workers, those aged 80 and above before being made available to the general public.
The vaccine was made by German company BioNTech in conjunction with US Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and is said to be 95% effective in preventing the disease. This is after it was tested on over 43, 000 people in the mandatory phase 3 trials.
The US Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing the vaccine and could also approve its usage later in the month.
What they are saying
The government in its statement said, “The government has today accepted the recommendation from the Independent Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for use.’’
A UK government spokesperson also said:
“The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week. The NHS has decades of experience in delivering large scale vaccination programmes and will begin putting their extensive preparations into action to provide care and support to all those eligible for vaccination.”
“I’m confident now, with the news today, that from spring — from Easter onwards — things are going to be better. We’re going to have a summer next year that everybody can enjoy.” Matt Hancock, UK health secretary.
Matt Hancock revealed that this is going to be one of the biggest civilian projects in history as 50 hospitals are preparing to administer the vaccine with 800,000 doses ready to be delivered from Belgium.
Hancock said, “I’m obviously absolutely thrilled with the news, very proud that the UK is the first place in the world to have a clinically authorized vaccine.’’
The UK regulator said on Wednesday, that the Covid-19, met its strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.
The UK had earlier given hope that it was going to act swiftly in approving a vaccine and then put doctors across the country on standby for a possible rollout. This will also come as a relief to the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who has been facing a series of criticisms over his handling of the pandemic that has killed almost 60,000 people in the UK.
The UK’s vaccine committee is expected to decide which priority groups will be given the shot first; care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and people who are clinically extremely vulnerable will be first in line.
The United Kingdom is said to have ordered over 357 million doses from seven manufacturers.
What you should know:
Pfizer has earlier announced that the Covid-19 vaccine it is developing in collaboration with its German partner, BioNTech, was certified 95% effective in preventing illness, much higher than expected. The approval of the vaccine by UK regulator, ahead of US counterpart, who is set to meet on December 10, to decide on whether to recommend emergency use authorization, marks a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19.
The European Medicines Agency had disclosed that it could give emergency approval for the Pfizer vaccine by December 29.
China has already given emergency approval for 3 experimental vaccines and has immunized about 1 million people since July.
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Covid-19: Sanwo-Olu discloses how Lagos intends to fund vaccination programme
Lagos government has disclosed that it is in talks with the organised private sector to raise funds required to purchase vaccines.
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has revealed how the state government intends to fund the vaccination programme as they fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Governor said that although the Lagos State Government had earmarked billions in fighting the scourge of the Covid-19, his administration was engaging with the private sector as the amount they had would not be enough.
This disclosure was made by the governor while appearing on a Channels Television programme, Sunday politics, on Sunday, January 24, 2021.
What the Lagos State Governor is saying
Sanwo-Olu said, “The conversations are still at various levels. We are speaking with the organised private sector so they can help us raise some of the finance that is required.
“We have our friends in the private sector who are saying to us that they understand this is a public health issue but we also can work with you. The citizens are your citizens but they also are our staff.’’
The governor also said that his administration did not need to vaccinate over 20 million residents of the state against the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
He said, “It is important for me to make this. We don’t have to vaccinate the 20 or 22 million population that we have. The plan is to ensure that there is herd immunity and that typically speaks about 50 to 60 percent of your population, that is the kind of target that you really meet.
“We have started a conversation with some of the vaccine manufacturers. Pfizer for example. I have made contact with them. Johnson and Johnson are not out yet; the Moderna has written to us and we have written back to them.”
What this means
- The Lagos State Government is looking for private sector participation to help raise funds to fund the purchase of Covid-19 vaccines due to budgetary shortfalls.
- The state, which has become the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the country through the vaccination programme, is trying to get most of its population immune from the Covid-19 disease.
Cost of Ivermectin soars after research suggest 75% chance of cutting Covid-19 deaths
Ivermectin prices have risen after Research published by the International Ivermectin Project Team shows drug can reduce Covid-19 deaths
As Azuka laid down in bed feverish, he had resigned to his fate believing he was not going to make it to the next day.
Just 3 days into the new year and all the fun he had, attending weddings and burial ceremonies in the east all seemed like a big mistake. He must have caught covid-19 at one of those events, he thought.
Since attending the last event, he fell sick and has been exhibiting the symptoms of Covid-19 and just waiting to die until someone recommended Ivermectin, a little known drug as a potential medicine that could help save his life.
A few days later he recovered and spread the news to friends and family – he believes Ivermectin cured him.
The rush to purchase Ivermectin in Lagos has increased of late after stories similar to that of Azuka (not his real name) spread. As Nigeria’s caseloads rise past 120k cases, some Nigerians are increasingly worried about contracting Covid-19, rushing to pharmacies to purchase a drug that they all believe is the most portent to fight Covid-19.
What is Ivermectin?
According to the World Health Organisation, Ivermectin was originally produced in the 1980s as a veterinary drug used largely for nematode control in cattle, horses, pigs, and dogs and became the standard for control of the ectoparasitic disease, scabies. It soon became the world’s most profitable veterinary drug.
Since then, Ivermectin has been used on humans for controlling strongyloidiasis, a human pathogenic parasitic roundworm causing the disease strongyloidiasis. According to medical sources, it is also known in the US as threadworm, UK, and Australia as pinworms.
In Nigeria, it has been used to treat worms, according to a pharmacist who spoke to Nairametrics.
“Originally it’s a worm expeller (Antihelminthic) used in the elimination of parasitic worms from the body. They use it in combination with doxycycline. They also use Vitamin C in combination with Axrthromycin.”
However, more recently, the drug is now being used for the treatment of Covid-19 pushing demands for the drug high across pharmacies in Lagos. A Nairametrics survey suggests the drug cost as high as N100,000.
Another pharmacist who craved anonymity explains.
“It was one of the available free drugs dispensed to patients at clinics in Nigeria – for eliminating different types of worms from the body. People usually don’t buy it from pharmacies because of the low price, thinking it’s not good quality tabled for expelling worms. It was not expensive and almost cost next to nothing, but now it sells for as high as N200 per tablet”
At N200 per tablet, a pack of 500 tablets could go for as high as N100,000. From all indications, the prices are unstable and could be purchased from as little as N20,000 per pack of 500 tablets to as high as N100,000. It all depends on demand and supply and who is under pressure to get a “cure”.
Is the drug credible?
Several social media posts and videos allude to the efficacy of the drug in “preventing and curing” Covid-19 but this is yet to be certified by the WHO.
The drug however came into the limelight after a Financial Times article claimed the drug had a chance of cutting covid-19 deaths by up to 75%.
The article was based on research published by the International Ivermectin Project Team led by the University of Liverpool lecturer Andrew Hill. A Nigerian Olufemi Emmanual Babalola, from Bingham University/Lagos University, Nigeria is also part of the group.
Here is an excerpt of the result of the research conducted by the group
“Ivermectin was associated with reduced inflammatory markers (C-Reactive Protein, d-dimer, and ferritin) and faster viral clearance by PCR. Viral clearance was treatment dose- and duration-dependent. Ivermectin showed significantly shorter duration of hospitalization compared to control. In six RCTs of moderate or severe infection, there was a 75% reduction in mortality (Relative Risk=0.25 [95%CI 0.12- 0.52]; p=0.0002); 14/650 (2.1%) deaths on ivermectin; 57/597 (9.5%) deaths in controls) with favorable clinical recovery and reduced hospitalization. “
Currently, the only other drug with the same level of worldwide unofficial approval for treatment of Covid-19 is Remdesivir, after it also showed an effect on improving recovery rate for Covid-19 patients.
The choice between waiting for a vaccine or self-medication
More recently, the search for cures for Covid-19 has been overshadowed by vaccine breakthroughs across the world. For most governments, preventing covid-19 is better than curing it which is why more effort is geared towards vaccine distributions and other preventive measures such as insisting on facemasks and introducing new lockdowns.
But for developing economies like Nigeria, where self-medication is prevalent, drugs like Ivermectin are easier to purchase over the counter as well as administer. Just like the demand for chloroquine, zinc, and vitamin C soared in the first wave of Covid-19, demand for Ivermectin is rising along with its price.
Fortunately, Ivermectin is backed by research even though the researchers expressed caution as more trials need to be conducted.
“Despite the encouraging trend this existing data base demonstrates, it is not yet a sufficiently robust evidence base to justify the use or regulatory approval of ivermectin. However, the current paucity of high-quality evidence only highlights the clear need for additional, higher-quality and larger-scale clinical trials, warranted to investigate the use of ivermectin further.
“The maximum effective dose of ivermectin needs to be clarified and new clinical trials should use a consistent multi-day dosing regime, with at least 0.4mg/kg/day. The appropriate dose and schedule of ivermectin still requires evaluation and the current randomized clinical trials of ivermectin need to be continued until ready for rigorous review by regulatory agencies.” International Ivermectin Project Team
Asides Ivermectin, Nigerians have also resorted to traditional medicine such as a beverage of lemongrass, dogonyaro leaves, garlic, ginger, and bitter kola to prevent and cure Covid-19, despite orthodox vaccines proven to be effective.
Perhaps it is because no one is sure when the vaccine will get to Nigeria after it was initially meant to arrive in January and since pushed to February 2021. And even if it does arrive in Nigeria, most people do not believe it will get to ordinary Nigerians on time especially when they cite the way the Covid-19 palliatives was handled.
For now, the need for self-reliance is driving people towards any drug they believe can cure covid-19.
WHO warns Africa in danger of being left behind in Covid-19 vaccination
The WHO has warned that Africa is in danger of being left behind in Covid-19 vaccination.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that Africa is in danger of being left behind in Covid-19 vaccination as countries from other regions strike bilateral deals, thereby driving up prices.
This follows the development and approval of safe and effective vaccine less than a year after the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, regarded as a stunning achievement.
This disclosure was made by the WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti while speaking during a virtual press conference which was facilitated by APO Group.
Dr Moeti was joined at the press briefing by the Managing Director, Country Programmes, Gavi, Thabani Maphosa and UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Mohamed Fall.
What the WHO’s Regional Director for Africa is saying
Dr Moeti stated that as of early this week, 40 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered in 50 mostly high-income countries with Guinea being the only low-income country on the continent to have provided doses to only 25 people so far.
According to her, Seychelles is the only high-income country on the continent where a national Covid-19 vaccination campaign has started.
She said, “We first, not me first, is the only way to end the pandemic. Vaccine hoarding will only prolong the ordeal and delay Africa’s recovery. It is deeply unjust that the most vulnerable Africans are forced to wait for vaccines while lower-risk groups in rich countries are made safe.
“Health workers and vulnerable people in Africa need urgent access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.’’
What the Managing Director, Country Programmes, GAVI, is saying
Mr Thabani Maphosa, the Managing Director, Country Programmes at GAVI, a partner in the alliance, was quoted as saying delivery would begin soon.
He said, “COVAX is on track to start delivering vaccine doses and begin ensuring global access to vaccines. This massive international undertaking has been made possible thanks to donations work towards dose-sharing deals and deals with manufacturers that have brought us to almost 2 billion doses secured. We look forward to rollout in the coming weeks.”
What you should know
- COVAX facility is an international alliance which is backed by the WHO, Gavi, the vaccine alliance and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), to ensure equitable distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines among all countries regardless of income level.
- The alliance has secured 2 billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccine for Africa from 5 producers, with options of over 1 billion more doses.
- COVAX has committed to vaccinating no fewer than 20% of the population in Africa by the end of 2021.
- Priority will be given to health workers and other vulnerable groups, such as older persons and those with pre-existing health conditions.
- An initial 30 million vaccine doses are expected to begin arriving in countries by March.
- The United Nations in its report said that a maximum of 600 million doses will be disbursed, based on 2 doses per person.