From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 has pleaded with Nigerians against procuring uncertified vaccines from the black market.
Chairman of PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha and Chairman PTF on COVID-19, gave the warning in Abuja at the joint national briefing of the taskforce.
He assured that the PTF will leave no stone unturned in the effort to access safe and efficacious vaccines.
“The PTF wishes to reassure Nigerians that no stone will be left unturned in the effort to access safe and efficacious vaccines. We therefore plead for patience and vigilance. We also plead with Nigerians not to procure uncertified vaccines from the black market.
•4m doses of vaccines soon
Mustapha also assured that Nigeria will soon receive initial four million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines.
The PTF chairman said: “The PTF has been assured that Nigeria shall receive the initial four million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines very soon and Nigerians will be adequately informed on developments.
“The multisectoral machinery will be deployed to enhance the logistics to the ‘last-mile administration’ processes that have been put in place. This will involve community mobilization, training, transportation, storage, operations, among others. The real work involves every sub-national entities, the communities, the citizens, and the civil societies.”
He also said: “The issue of vaccines continues to dominate discussions and major policy and financial decisions by various countries of the world. As you are aware, NAFDAC in the course of the week granted emergency use authorization for the use of AstraZeneca vaccines in Nigeria. This decision was reached after due process by the regulatory body.
“Despite this milestone approval, which will obviously be a game changer, the PTF wishes to underscore the need to continue to take responsibility by observing all the non-pharmaceutical measures. Vaccines remain critical in the battle but we must remain well informed because of the intense transmission which is putting enormous pressure on the hospitals, intensive care units and health workers in our different communities. Let me state that decisions made by leaders and citizens will determine the level of our success in tackling the acute phase.”
Mustapha further warned that although the global cases of COVID-19 keeps reducing, Nigerians must continue be at alert to ensure that virus was defeated.
“In terms of numbers, statistics show that global cases and deaths have continued to decline. Most countries have registered significant declines in cases but amongst the top five, the decline in Brazil is still minimal. The African Region has shown high decline and South Africa continues to record a sustained daily decline in cases.”
On issues involving international travels and bans, he said: “At the last briefing we informed you on the emerging issues on international travels involving the Emirates and the KLM airlines. Discussions are still ongoing through the Foreign Affairs and Aviation ministries.”
•New COVID-19 variant B.1.2.5 discovered in Nigeria, 15 countries
Nigeria Centre for Disease Control( NCDC), yesterday, announced a new variant of COVID-19 has been detected in Nigeria and 15 other countries.
This is even as the NCDC, the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), and other partners released findings of household seroprevalence surveys (house to house survey) conducted in Lagos, Enugu, Nasarawa and Gombe states between September and October 2020.
The NCDC Director-General, Dr Chikwe Iheakwazu, made the disclosure at the media briefing by the PTF COVID-19.
He explained that the new strain, B.1.2.5 which is different from the highly infectious B.1.1.7 has, however, is not yet tagged a variant of concern.
He said researchers and scientists were still working hard to understand if the B.1.2.5 variant had any effect on the virus transmissibility, immunity, as well as diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics.
Ihekweazu said: “As we shared, a total of 54 cases with the B.1.1.7 variant strain, which is a variant of concern first described in the UK have been detected in Nigeria.
“There is a new variant, the B.1.2.5 which we have begun to detect in Nigeria and 15 other countries. It is important to note that this variant has not been described as a variant of concern yet.”
“Researchers and scientists are still working hard to understand if this variant has any effect on the virus transmissibility, immunity, as well as diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics.
“This is because the variant has some similar mutations with the B.1.1.7, B.1.351 and P.1 variants first detected in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil, respectively.”
The NCDC boss assured that the agency was scaling up its sequencing capacity to have a better understanding of the burden of variants of concern in the country.
Ihekweazu, “Last week, we sent another 100 samples to our colleagues at the ACEGID lab in Ede, and we did 30 sequences in our lab at NCDC.
“We will continue to scale the weekly number of samples sequenced as part of our surveillance.”
According to him, the risk of virus mutation was higher when there is high transmission of the virus.
“While sequencing is important for us to understand the situation, handwashing, physical distancing and the proper use of face masks are very important to prevent the spread of the virus,” he further stressed.
Speaking on the September and October 2020 household prevalence surveys carried out in Lagos, Enugu, Nasarawa and Gombe States, the NCDC boss said findings revealed the level of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies among the population.
He said: “The findings from the survey show that the estimated prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the population is 23 per cent in Lagos and Enugu States, 19 per cent in Nasarawa State and 9 per cent in Gombe State.
“We are still working on a better understanding of SARS-CoV-2 which is the virus that causes COVID-19 and the duration of immunity”, Iheakwazu said.