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Nigeria, World Bank to Raise $30m for Vaccine Plant — Osinbajo

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Vice President Yemi Osinbajo says Nigeria and the World Bank are collaborating to raise 30 million dollars to finance a vaccine plant.

Osinbajo spoke on Monday in Abuja at the International Conference on Health Access and Socio-Economic Development Beyond Covid-19: The First Multisectoral Approach to Solution Finding.

The conference was orgainsed by the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD).

He said the global trend in health had made it critical for Nigeria to establish its own vaccine production facilities.

“Nigeria is in talks with the World Bank’s private lending arm and other lenders to raise about 30 million dollars to help finance a vaccine plant.

“Bio-vaccine Nigeria Limited is chaired by Prof. Oyewale Tomori; 49 per cent of the company is owned by the Nigerian government with the balance held by May and Baker Nigeria PLC and they have plans to begin construction of a plant.

“ 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.

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

“Full manufacturing, we are told, is expected to follow in the coming months or years; I am not entirely certain, when.

“So, it is evident 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 by 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 would require.

Osinbajo said that the Federal Government had established the Healthcare Sector Intervention Fund Facility which had disbursed N76.9 billion, about 185 million dollars, to finance the acquisition and installation of critical medical care equipment.

He said that the fund was also for the expansion of production lines in 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 had disbursed a total of N233 billion in grants.

Osinbajo said that NIPRD was also making immense contributions in developing local cure for COVID-19.

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“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 posses reasonable property that are able to prevent or work against COVID-19.

“Both products, which have been registered by NAFDAC, are currently undergoing various levels of clinical studies towards approval for production for emergency use.

“The NIPRD Director-General, Dr Obi Adigwe, has assured that by this time next year, the institute will launch three new products currently under development at its Nanomedicine, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Centres.

“It is this proactive approach that we must take to the slow pace of vaccine access in Africa and of course, Nigeria.

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

“There is no question that we cannot afford not to have own vaccine production facilities.’’

He said the COVID-19 pandemic was for him, an eye opener in five different respects—the unpreparedness of most developed economies; vaccine hesitancy and the danger of conspiracy theory and false information, especially in public health crisis.

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Osinbajo said that the fourth eye opener was that, in terms of global health crisis on the scale of the COVID-19, help should not be expected.

“The fifth eye opener is that despite infrastructural weaknesses, we in Nigeria have an experienced and robust public health system, peopled by some of the best personnel anywhere in the world.

“` But more importantly, we have an opportunity to become one of the leading nations in healthcare,’’ he said.

Earlier, in his welcome address, Adigwe said that the conference was the first of its kind to gather multidisciplinary scholars to engage, innovate and synthisise new approaches to solving global health challenges.

The keynote speaker, Prof. Joseph Fortunak, who spoke virtually, said that COVID-19 exposed the vulnerability of pharmaceutical supply chain and urged Nigeria to take the manufacture of drugs seriously.(NAN)

CRIME

Man, 25 Commits Suicide in Kwara over Inability to Pay Debt

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From Alfred Babs, Ilorin

A 25 year old man whose name was given as Olakunle Obaoye was allegedly found hanging in a bush at Erinmope Village near Ayedun in Oke Ero Local Government Area of Kwara state on Monday.

The deceased according to family sources allegedly killed himself over depression occasioned by his inability to pay debts that he owed some people.

The Kwara State Command of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) which confirmed the incident said that the deceased was found dead in a bush on Monday.

The Command’s public relations officer Babawale Afolabi said in a statement on Tuesday that the deceased elder brother reported the incident to it office.

“On Monday 17/01/2022:at about 1200 hours one Thomas Obaoye of Ayedun town went to our divisional office in the area to notify our men on ground about the demise of his brother Olakunle Obaoye, 25, whose lifeless body was found hanging on the tree in what look like a suicide

“Following the report, NSCDC men from Ayedun Division later went to the scene of the incident and worked together with the relatives of the victim to bring down his corpse from the tree.

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“The dead body was later handed over to the family for proper burial”, he said.

Babawale said that the matter had been handed over to the police for further investigations and necessary actions.

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Health

COVID-19 Vaccine: Covax Leads Supply Operation – WHO

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The World Health Organization, WHO, has revealed that COVAX with its billionth dose supply to Rwanda, it is the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history,

In a statement issued by WHO and made available to newsmen in Abuja, said a shipment of 1.

1 million COVID-19 vaccines to Rwanda included the billionth dose supplied via COVAX.

“Together with our partners, COVAX is leading the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history, with deliveries to 144 countries to date.

“But the work that has gone into this milestone is only a reminder of the work that remains.

“As of 13 January 2022, out of 194 Member States, 36 WHO Member States have vaccinated less than 10% of their population, and 88 less than 40%.

“COVAX’s ambition was compromised by hoarding/stockpiling in rich countries, catastrophic outbreaks leading to borders and supply being locked. And a lack of sharing of licenses, technology and knowhow by pharmaceutical companies meant manufacturing capacity went unused.

“COVAX is working with governments, manufacturers and partners to ensure that when countries receive vaccines they can get them to people quickly,” the statement read.

The world noted that with updated vaccines in the pipeline, now is the moment for all citizens to demand that governments & pharmaceutical companies share health tools globally & bring an end to the death & destruction cycles of this pandemic, limit new variants and drive a global economic recovery.

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COVID-19: Omicron Pandemic Has Flattened – WHO

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The World Health Organisation, WHO, has said that the Omicron-fueled COVID-19 pandemic fourth wave in Africa has flattened after a six-week surge, marking the shortest-lived surge to date in the continent where cumulative cases have now exceeded 10 million.

The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, who stated this during a virtual press conference, said that even though the continent appears to be weathering the latest pandemic wave, vaccination rates remain low as just around 10 percent of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated.

Early indications suggest that Africa’s fourth wave has been steep and brief but no less destabilizing.

The crucial pandemic countermeasure badly needed in Africa still stands, and that is rapidly and significantly increasing COVID-19 vaccinations. The next wave might not be so forgiving. 

“This year should mark a turning point in Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination drive. With vast swaths of the population still unvaccinated, our chances of limiting the emergence and impact of deadly variants are frighteningly slim.

We have the know-how and the tools and with a concerted push we can certainly tip the balance against the pandemic,” Moeti argued.

In countries experiencing a surge in cases, WHO observed that the fast-spreading Omicron variant has become the dominant type.

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The global health body said while it took around four weeks for the Delta variant to surpass the previously dominant Beta, Omicron outpaced Delta within two weeks in the worst-hit African countries.

“So far 30 African countries—and at least 142 globally—have detected the Omicron variant. The Delta variant has been reported in 42 countries in Africa.”

According to Moeti, as of 11 January, there have been 10.2 million COVID-19 cases in Africa. Weekly cases plateaued in the seven days to 9 January from the week before. Southern Africa, which saw a huge increase in infections during the pandemic wave, recorded a 14 percent decline in infections over the past week. South Africa, where Omicron was first reported, saw a 9 percent fall in weekly infections.

“East and Central Africa regions also experienced a drop. However, North and West Africa are witnessing a rise in cases, with North Africa reporting a 121 percent increase this past week compared with the previous one.

“Across the continent, though, deaths rose by 64 percent in the seven days ending on 9 January compared with the week before mainly due to infections among people at high risk. Nonetheless, deaths in the fourth wave are lower than in the previous waves. Hospitalizations have remained low.

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“In South Africa, for instance, around 9 percent of its over 5,600 intensive care unit beds are currently occupied by COVID-19 patients.

“Testing, which is crucial to COVID-19 detection and surveillance—including genomic, rose modestly by 1.6 percent over the past week with over 90 million—mostly polymerase chain reaction (PCR)—tests carried out across the continent. Twenty-three countries recorded a high positivity rate of over 10 percent over the past week.”

She noted that in West Africa where COVID-19 cases are on the rise, the number of Omicron sequences undertaken by countries including Cabo Verde, Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal is growing. In Cabo Verde and Nigeria, Omicron is currently the dominant variant.

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