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Omicron: NCDC To Test Travellers For Virus

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Omicron: NCDC To Test Travellers For Virus

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said it was analyzing outbound and inbound travellers from countries with confirmed cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

NCDC’s Director-General, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, said this at the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) briefing on COVID-19 on Monday in Abuja.

Adetifa noted that the agency would continue to sequence positive samples from the cases and ensure quick communication with the public.

“The NCDC will continue to work with the Federal Ministry of Health Ports of Entry team to ensure that inbound and outbound travellers are tested and compliant with the protocol.

READ ALSO: WHO Names Latest COVID-19 Variant ‘Omicron’, Warns Public Of Its Impact

“Towards the Christmas period, please do avoid all non-essential travel and take the precautions, which will, indeed, save even just one life.

“Your life is important and so are our loved ones and strangers,” he said.

Adetifa said most Nigerians would be thinking of the new variant and the potential impact it would have on travel, holiday plans and the national response to date.

He reiterated the need for public health and social measures in the country, adding that COVID-19 was real and harmful.

Adetifa said in spite of the high recovery rate, COVID-19 had caused painful and needless loss of lives, particularly among the elderly and more vulnerable.

He said its worldwide spread and ongoing devastation, resulting in full Intensive Care Units in some countries; case surges, reintroduction of lockdowns and more, was indication enough that it was not business as usual.

According to him, Nigerians must reemphasise the priority of wearing face masks.

“I know there is pandemic fatigue.

“It has been very long, over 20 months since the declaration of the pandemic, and this can cause fatigue to anyone.

READ ALSO: WHO Names Latest COVID-19 Variant ‘Omicron’, Warns Public Of Its Impact

“I commend Nigerians for bearing the pandemic as they have done and continuing to make ends meet and continue life with hope amid hardships.

“However, I also acknowledge that we can and must do much better with adherence to public health and social measures,” he said.

Adetifa said the reason why a face mask was worn was to protect oneself from the potential air droplets that might be transmitted from person to person when speaking, singing etc.

He said sometimes it was difficult to tell when someone was infected as the virus could, at times, be present without symptoms.

“For hand hygiene, proof of its importance reaches as far back as Ignac Semmelweis, who is considered the Father of hygiene.

“High maternal mortality was reversed through his observational studies.

“These studies revealed that unwashed hands of doctors who had done autopsies on cadavers and then proceeded to deliver children of mothers in labour were responsible for high mortality rate.

“This was over two centuries ago.

“We now have even more advanced scientific knowledge to detect viruses which can be transmitted through improper hand hygiene,” he said.

The director-general said those privileged who had the means should make sure they used clean water and soap to stay safe.

“Please, please, do use this simple means of keeping your health intact.

“When you frequently touch surfaces, shake others people’s hands, etc, do wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser if water is unavailable,” he said.

Adetifa encouraged Nigerians to be their brothers’ keepers, look out for those without access to clean water, soap and hand sanitisers, educate and where possible, support them with needed supplies.

Regarding large gatherings without social measures, he warned that those must stop as they pose a huge risk to the lives of loved ones with co-morbidities, older loved ones, strangers whose complications they were unaware of and of course, the gains the country had made so far in the pandemic.

Adetifa added that the COVID-19 Health Protection Regulations 2021, signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari earlier in the year were, indeed, valid.

He noted that the COVID-19 vaccines were available.

“We will not fail to let you know that they are safe and effective and that they do reduce the risk of severe disease and eventual death.

“Where you find out that you have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, please do safely, ensure that you are tested.

“We will continue to ensure that laboratories are sustained, available for testing and conveniently accessed,” he said.

The Omicron variant was first identified from testing done on Nov. 9 in Botswana on travellers from West Africa.

It was reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the identification of cases among a cluster of young unvaccinated people in South Africa on Nov. 24.

While this variant has so far not been detected in Nigeria, a number of cases have now been reported in the UK, Israel, Botswana, Hong Kong, Germany, Belgium, Italy and counting.

However, no deaths have been attributed to this new variant yet.

A total of 126 genomes of this variant have been detected globally and published on GISAID. (GISAID is a global mechanism for sharing sequencing data).

The SARS-CoV-2 variant has now been designated a variant of concern (VOC) and named; Omicron by the WHO, as advised by the independent Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution (TAG-VE). 

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Health & Wellness

WHO Confirms Omicron Spreading Faster Than Delta Variant

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WHO Confirms Omicron Spreading Faster Than Delta Variant

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says there is now “consistent evidence” that the Omicron variant was outpacing Delta, as COVID-19 continues to account for around 50,000 deaths worldwide every week.

WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus told journalists at the agency’s Headquarters in Geneva that it was also more likely that people who had been vaccinated or recovered from the virus, could be infected, or re-infected.

“There can be no doubt that increased social mixing over the holiday period in many countries will lead to increased cases, overwhelm health systems and more deaths.

READ ALSO: Ex- NIPC’s Boss ‘Yewande Sadiku’ Cleared Of All Fraud Allegations

“All of us are sick of this pandemic. All of us want to spend time with friends and family. All of us want to get back to normal.

“The fastest way to do that is for all of us – leaders and individuals – to make the difficult decisions that must be made to protect ourselves and others,” he said.

He said delaying or cancelling events, was the responsible thing to do: “An event cancelled is better than a life cancelled. It’s better to cancel now and celebrate later than to celebrate now and grieve later.”

More than 3.3 million people have lost their lives to COVID-19 this year – more deaths than from HIV, malaria and tuberculosis combined in 2020, and Africa was now facing a steep wave of infections, driven largely by the Omicron variant.

Just a month ago, Africa was reporting its lowest number of cases in 18 months, Ghebreyesus reminded reporters on Monday, whereas last week, it reported the fourth-highest number of cases in a single week so far.

“None of us wants to be here again in 12 months’ time, talking about missed opportunities, continued inequity, or new variants,” he said.

The director-general emphasised that for the pandemic to end in 2022, “we must end inequity, by ensuring 70 per cent of the population of every country is vaccinated by the middle of next year.”

Around the world, the WHO was working with countries to restore and sustain essential health services disrupted by the pandemic.

According to new data released this year, 23 million children missed out on routine vaccines in 2020, the largest number in over a decade, increasing risks from preventable diseases like measles and polio, the UN correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported.

Progress is, however, still being made in many other areas of healthcare and medicine.

Five countries were able to introduce the human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV) to prevent cervical cancer, and a further nine are planning to introduce it over the next six months, and in September, WHO launched a global road map to defeat meningitis by 2030.

The pandemic has also caused setbacks in the agency’s efforts to defeat the world’s leading infectious diseases, with an estimated 14 million more malaria cases and 47 thousand more malaria deaths in 2020, compared to 2019.

“However, WHO certified two countries – China and El Salvador – as malaria-free this year, and a further 25 are on track to end malaria transmission by 2025,” Ghebreyesus said.

He said the WHO also made a historic recommendation for the broad use of the world’s first malaria vaccine.

Services for non-communicable diseases have also been hit, with more than half of countries surveyed between June and October, reporting disruptions to services for diabetes, cancer screening and treatment, and management of hypertension.

Summing up a tumultuous year, he also noted that several important steps had been taken to strengthen the global health architecture, and WHO itself.

“We launched the WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence in Berlin; We broke ground on the WHO Academy in Lyon; We established the WHO BioHub System,” he said.

In early December, Member States agreed to negotiate the world’s first new agreement on pandemic preparedness and response.

“We have also taken decisive steps to address instances of sexual exploitation and abuse and to make sure that our people meet the high standards that we, and our Member States, expect of them.

“We took decisive steps to address sexual exploitation, following shocking revelations of alleged abuse committed by some WHO staff during the deadly tenth Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,’’ he said.

“2022 must be the year we end the pandemic,” said the director-general, but to prevent a future disaster on the same scale, all countries must invest in resilient health systems, build on primary care, with universal health coverage as the goal.

“When people can’t access the services they need, or can’t afford them, individuals, families, communities and entire societies are put at risk.

“In the year ahead, WHO is committed to doing everything in our power to end the pandemic, and to beginning a new era in global health – an era in which health is at the centre of every country’s development plans,” he said. 

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Health & Wellness

Donated Covid Vaccines Have Close Expiration Date – Minister

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Donated Covid Vaccines Have Close Expiration Date - Minister

The Federal Government on Wednesday said vaccines donated to Nigeria through COVAX and AVAT have short expiration shelf lives and could expire before usage.

Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Minister of health, said this in a statement made available in Abuja.

According to him, with short shelf lives of only a few months, it leaves the country a very short time and some weeks to use them.

He said that donors often give away unused vaccines before they expire in their own stock.

Ehanire added that at times, logistic bottlenecks in the country could make some of them expire before usage.

READ ALSO: Omicron: Nigeria Governors Fumes Over UK, Canada Ban

“Nigeria has of late enjoyed the generosity of several, mainly European countries, who have offered us doses of COVID-19 vaccines out of their stockpiles, free of charge, through COVAX or AVAT facility.

”These donations are always acknowledged and thankfully received.

”However, some of them have residual shelf lives of only a few months that left us a very short time, some just weeks, to use them, after deduction of time to transport, clear, distribute and deliver to users.

”If such vaccines arrive back-to-back or are many, logistic bottlenecks occasionally arise.

”We appreciate the kind gesture of donors, but we also communicate the challenge of short shelf lives,” he said.

Ehanire said that some manufacturers offered to extend the vaccine shelf life by three months.

He said the practice, though accepted by experts, was declined by the Federal Ministry of Health because it was not accommodated in its standards.

The minister said that the donation of surplus COVID-19 vaccines with expiring shelf lives to developing countries had been a matter of international discussion.

He said that developing countries like Nigeria accepted the vaccines because of vaccine supply gaps and, being free, save scarce foreign exchange procurement costs.

“This dilemma is not typical to Nigeria, but a situation in which many Low- and medium-income countries find themselves,” he added.

According to him, donors also recognize a need to give away unused vaccines, before they expire in their own stock.

Ehanire said the donors needed to begin the process early enough and create a well-oiled pathway for prompt shipment and distribution through the COVAX and AVAT facilities, to reduce the risk of expiration.

He said that with better coordination, vaccines needed not to expire in the stock of Donors or Recipients.

The Minister, however, assured that Nigeria did not dispense vaccines with a validity extended beyond the labeled expiry date, but continued to adhere to rigorous standards.

He said that Nigeria had utilized most of the over 10 million short-shelf-life doses of COVID-19 vaccines so far supplied, in good time, and saved N16.4 billion or more than US$40 million in foreign exchange.

“The vaccines that expired had been withdrawn before then, and will be destroyed accordingly, by the National Agency for Food, Drug  Administration and Control (NAFDAC ),” he said.

Ehanire stated that FMOH shares its experience with partners regularly and now politely declines all vaccine donations with short shelf life or those that could not be delivered on time.

He said that the long-term measure to prevent such incidents was for Nigeria to produce its own vaccines so that vaccines produced had at least 12 months of the expiration date.

“This is why the FMOH is collaborating with stakeholders to fast-track establishment of indigenous vaccine manufacturing capacity.

Ehanire said this is a goal the ministry is pursuing with dedication.

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PSC Approves COVID-19 Vaccines Booster For Nigerians

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PSC Approves COVID-19 Vaccines Booster For Nigerians

The Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19, has authorized a vaccine booster against the pandemic for eligible Nigerians.

Dr. Faisal Shuaib, the Executive Director of National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), disclosed on Friday in Abuja, that the decision was reached, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health and the agency.

Shuaib said the decision reached was for the administration of booster doses for those that had completed the two doses of AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer Bio-N-Tech, or one dose of Johnson and Johnson.

READ ALSO: Omicron: State Govts Resume Testing, Demand Funds

The NPHCDA scribe said that the eligibility criteria for taking the booster dose include: any person of 18 years and above, time interval of six months or more after receiving the second dose of AstraZeneca, Moderna, or Pfizer Bio-N-Tech.

“Time interval of two months or more after receiving the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

“Consequent upon the above, eligible Nigerians are advised to visit the nearest health facility or mass vaccination sites for their booster doses as from Dec.10, 2021, across the 36 states of the federation and the FCT,” he said.

According to him, a COVID-19 booster dose gives greater protection against the virus.

He urged all Nigerians to take advantage of the opportunity offered by the Federal Government of Nigeria.

“The list of the vaccination sites is available on the NPHCDA website: www.nphcda.gov.ng

“For more information, contact the NPHCDA COVID-19 call center on 07002201122 for assistance,” Shauib advised. 

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