The United Kingdom, on Wednesday, became the first country in the world to give clearance to the coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University in collaboration with AstraZeneca, as it battles a major surge during winter driven by a new, highly contagious variant of the virus.
AstraZeneca said the approval of the vaccine, which will be key to mass immunizations, was for a 2 dose regime and had been authorized for emergency supply. The UK has ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine.
According to a report from Reuters, this disclosure was made in a statement from the UK Health Ministry on Wednesday, December 30, 2020.
The vaccine, which is the second to be approved in the UK, after that of Pfizer/BioNTech, will be prioritized for the country’s most vulnerable groups early in the new year, according to statements from the company and the government.
The Health Ministry in its statement said,
- “The government has today accepted the recommendation from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to authorise Oxford University/AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for use.’’
This move will help the UK ramp up vaccination against the coronavirus pandemic that has already killed about 1.7 million people around the world, devastated the global economy and caused a lot of disruptions to normal lives for billions.
The UK has invested more in this vaccine, which had faced safety issues during its clinical trials, more than other shots. The vaccine can be deployed immediately because it is easier to transport and store than the Pfizer/BioNTech shot, as it requires only refrigerator temperatures rather than deep freezing.
Some countries have restricted international flights from the UK and South Africa specifically, currently battling with a new strain of the coronavirus, which government sources and scientists say is more infectious.
AstraZeneca and other developers have said they are studying the impact of the new variant but expect that their shots will be effective against it.
What you should know
- This regulatory approval will come as a huge boost for AstraZeneca and the Oxford team, which has been accused of a lack of clarity about the results from late-stage trials.
- The results gotten from those trials showed its overall efficacy was 70.4%, considering that the efficacy was 62% for trial participants given 2 full doses, but 90% for a smaller sub-group given a half, then a full dose.
- Researchers said that the 90% efficacy for the low-dose/high-dose regime needed more investigation. AstraZeneca did not specify which dose regime had been approved.
South African President appeals to wealthy countries not to hoard COVID-19 vaccines
South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa has called on the world’s wealthiest countries to stop “hoarding” vaccines.
The South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa has urged the world’s wealthiest countries to stop “hoarding” vaccines and called for an end to “vaccine nationalism.”
He made this call at the World Economic Forum’s virtual Davos Agenda event, where he clearly cautioned that some countries had ordered more supplies of vaccines than they needed, and that this was counterproductive to the global recovery effort.
According to him,
- “Ending the pandemic worldwide will require greater collaboration on the rollout of vaccines, ensuring that no country is left behind in this effort”
- “The rich countries of the world went out and acquired large doses of vaccines from the developers and manufacturers of these vaccines, and some countries have even gone beyond and acquired up to four times what their populations need”
- “That was aimed at hoarding these vaccines and now this is being done to the exclusion of other countries in the world that most need this”
What they are saying
According to Africa CDC Director, John Nkengasong, the African continent is quite facing a “very aggressive second wave” of the pandemic, with mortality increasing on average 18% across the 55 African member states last week.
“We as a continent must recognize that vaccines will not be here when we want them, but as such we need to really focus on the public health measures that we know work”
He however praised the progress of the African Vaccine Acquisition Task (AVAT) Team, which he said was created when AU nations realized “how the world’s richest countries are behaving.”
What you should know
- South Africa is the country, worst hit by Covid-19 on the continent.
- As at date, the country had recorded more than 1.4 million cases with 41,117 deaths.
- The African Vaccine Acquisition Task (AVAT) Team has secured a provisional 270 million doses for AU member states directly, in addition to the 600 million expected from the World Health Organization’s COVAX initiative.
IMF optimistic about global economy but warns new Covid variants could affect recovery
IMF is quite optimistic about the fortune of the global economy but expressed fear that the new Covid variant could derail economic recovery.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has expressed optimism about the global economy but warns that the new COVID 19 variant could affect the global economic growth, according to its latest World Economic Outlook.
According to the report, “the institution now expects the global economy to grow 5.5% this year — a 0.3 percentage point increase from October’s forecasts. It sees global GDP (gross domestic product) expanding by 4.2% in 2022”.
According to its Chief Economist, Gita Gopinath:
- “Much now depends on the outcome of this race between a mutating virus and vaccines to end the pandemic, and on the ability of policies to provide effective support until that happens.
- “There remains tremendous uncertainty and prospects vary greatly across countries.
- “China returned to its pre-pandemic projected level in the fourth quarter of 2020, ahead of all large economies. The United States is projected to surpass its pre-Covid levels this year, well ahead of the euro area.
- “Policy actions should ensure effective support until the recovery is firmly underway, with an emphasis on advancing key imperatives of raising potential output, ensuring participatory growth that benefits all, and accelerating the transition to lower carbon dependence.”
What you should know
- There has been a surge in the number of reported cases of the new variant Covid-19 infections and deaths over the past few months.
- The new variant has been described as being more infectious and potentially deadlier than the original strain.
- The IMF had cut its GDP forecasts for the euro zone this year by 1%.
- It is being projected that the 19-member region, which has been severely hit by the pandemic, would grow by 4.2% this year.
- Germany, France, Italy and Spain — the four largest economies in the euro zone — also saw their growth expectations cut for 2021.
- Economic activity in the region slowed in the final quarter of 2020 and this is expected to continue into the first part of 2021. The IMF does not expect the euro area economy to return to end-of-2019 levels before the end of 2022.
- IMF revised its GDP forecast upward by 2% points on the back of a strong momentum in the second part of 2020 and additional fiscal support, with GDP expected to grow to 5.1% this year.
FG says N10 billion disbursed funds not only for Covid-19 vaccines
FG has clarified that the N10 billion it earlier disbursed was not only for the development of Covid-19 vaccines.
The Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning has said that the N10 billion it released for vaccine development is not only for the production of Covid-19 vaccines.
This was disclosed by the Director-General of the Budget Office, Mr. Ben Akabueze, representing the Finance Minister during a meeting with the National Assembly Joint Committee on Health on Monday, reported by NTA.
Following the announcement of the disbursement of the sum of N10 billion to the Ministry of Health for the development of Covid-19 vaccine, the Joint Committee scheduled a meeting with the Ministers of Finance and Health for clarifications on the funds.
“The joint committee is invited to note that N10 billion has been released, to the Federal Ministry of Health under the budgetary vote referenced in above,” Akabueze said.
Ibrahim Oloriegbe, Chairman, Senate Committee on health, said the Committee wanted to know what the use of the funds was for and urged against the implementation of a lockdown.
“We got to see that what was released was in line with what was already there, for preparing the country for all other vaccines arrangements
“So our economy, we only need to live with covid, we cannot with due respect, contaminate Nigeria with a lockdown, it will badly affect our economy,” Oloriegbe said.
The committee also said the total aim is to see how Nigeria can develop its capacity towards the development of vaccines,
The Joint Committee, therefore, resolved that the Minister of Health who was absent at the meeting should appear before it on Tuesday for a breakdown on the proposed use of the funds.
What you should know: Nairametrics reported last week that the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Finance, announced the sum of N10billion for the production of vaccines in Nigeria, to fight the coronavirus.