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WHO, Others Establish Ebola Vaccine Stockpile

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) in partnership with other UN agencies and humanitarian organisations have announced the establishment of a global Ebola vaccine stockpile to help fight against the deadly virus.

WHO, in a statement posted on its website, announced that the vaccine stockpile would help to control future epidemics by ensuring timely access to vaccines for populations at risk during outbreaks.

Ebola virus disease is a severe and often fatal illness, with fatality rates varying from 25 per cent to 90 per cent. Thousands of people have lost their lives to the disease, since the virus was first discovered in 1976.

The statement quoted WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, as saying, “Ebola vaccines have made one of the most feared diseases on earth preventable.

“This new stockpile is an excellent example of solidarity, science and cooperation between international organisations and the private sector to save lives.”

Ghebreyesus, who underscored the importance of the vaccines to save lives from deadly viruses, said some agencies and organisations would take lead to establish the stockpile, with financial support from Gavi, the vaccine Alliance.

He listed them as the International Coordinating Group on Vaccine Provision (ICG) which included WHO, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) the International Federation of Red Cross, Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

“The stockpile is stored in Switzerland, and vaccines are ready to be shipped to countries for emergency response.”

The statement also quoted UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, as saying, “we are proud to be part of this unprecedented effort to help bring potential Ebola outbreaks quickly under control.

“We know that when it comes to disease outbreaks, preparedness is key.

“This Ebola vaccine stockpile is a remarkable achievement – one that will allow us to deliver vaccines to those who need them the most as quickly as possible.’

“UNICEF, on behalf of ICG will manage the stockpile, and as with stockpiles of cholera, meningitis and yellow fever vaccines, will be the decision-making body for its allocation and release.”

As Ebola outbreaks are relatively rare and unpredictable, there is no natural market for the vaccine, and doses are only secured through the establishment of stockpiles and are available in limited quantities.

According to the UN agencies, an initial 6,890 doses are available for outbreak response and quantities will be added over the coming months to take the emergency stockpile to 500,000 doses, the amount recommended by health experts.

Partners MSF and IFRC, which have worked tirelessly to stop Ebola outbreaks, also hailed the stockpile establishment.

IFRC Secretary General, Jagan Chapagain recalled the devastating impact of Ebola on communities in West and Central Africa.

Chapagain said IFRC volunteers had risked their lives to save lives through each outbreak, saying “with this stockpile, it is my hope that the impact of this terrible disease will be dramatically reduced.”

Meanwhile, Natalie Roberts, Programme Manager at MSF Foundation, said that the Ebola vaccine stockpile could increase transparency in the management of existing global stocks and the timely deployment of the vaccine where it’s most needed.

According to the UN agencies, the injectable single-dose Ebola vaccine (rVSV∆G-ZEBOV-GP, live) is manufactured by Merck, Sharp and Dohme (MSD) Corp and developed with financial support from the U.S. Government.

The European Medicines Agency licensed the Ebola vaccine in November 2019, and the vaccine is now pre-qualified by WHO, and licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as in eight African countries.

Before achieving licensure, the vaccine was administered to more than 350,000 people in Guinea and in the 2018-2020 Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) under a protocol for “compassionate use”.

The vaccine, which is recommended by the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunisation for use in Ebola outbreaks as part of a broader set of Ebola outbreak response tools, protects against the Zaire Ebolavirus species which is most commonly known to cause outbreaks.

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Algeria to Share COVID-19 Vaccines With Tunisia

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Algeria has promised to share some of their doses of coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines with neighbours, Tunisia, a government official has revealed.

Tunisia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Othman Jerandi, says Algeria agreed to share the vaccines in in the spirit of fraternity between the two countries.

Algeria, which have already ordered the vaccines, expects to have them by the end of the month.

“Among the calls I made during this time, I had a call with my counterpart, the Algerian foreign minister, about the possibility of receiving some vaccines from Algeria.,” Jerandi said.

“The foreign minister responded positively and directly, saying that Algeria did not receive the vaccines yet, but the moment they receive them they will share them with its sister Tunis.”

It is not clear how many doses Algeria has ordered, nor how many each country needs to battle the virus effectively. However, reports said the country ordered Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine – with 500,000 doses due in the first delivery – as well as another vaccine from China.

Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune recently returned to Germany for a final phase of treatment after he caught coronavirus three months ago.

Tunisia, with a population of 12 million, has registered more than 5,000 deaths from coronavirus.

Its government imposed a four-day lockdown on 14 January to control the spread of the virus.

Algeria meanwhile has had 2,822 deaths and around 30,000 active cases, according to data published by Johns Hopkins university.

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COVID-19 Vaccines to Arrive Nigeria, Other Countries in February – Okonjo-Iweala

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) envoy on Covid-19, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, says the physical quantities of Covid-19 vaccines will begin to arrive in 12 middle and low-income countries that have indicated readiness to receive the vaccines from late February.

Nigeria is one of the 12.

Okonjo-Iweala, a Board Chair of Global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) a public-private global health partnership with the goal of increasing access to immunisation in poor countries, said that the aim of COVAX sending the vaccines to the 12vcountries is to ensure that 20% of the respective population is vaccinated.

COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and WHO and aims at accelerating the development and manufacture of Covid-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.

“As at now, with the scramble going on, the COVAX facility has been able to contract 1.9 billion doses of vaccines for all these countries and 88 countries have put in their request from all over the world, of this 88, 42 are African countries.

“In the assessment twelve of the African countries have said they are ready to receive vaccines now and I am happy to say Nigeria is one of them,” Okonjo-Iweala said.

She added further that: “What we are trying to do is with COVAX, is to try as quickly as feasible is to get vaccines to the (African) continent. COVAX expects that by the first quarter of this year and hopefully starting maybe late February, actual physical quantities of vaccines will begin to get to those countries that are ready and the aim is to send vaccines that will vaccinate twenty per cent of the population, beginning with twenty per cent.

“The prioritization is for frontline workers, those who are dealing with the medical issues to be vaccinated first and then the rest of the population according to criteria to be agreed by the government.

“Of those vaccines, AstraZeneca vaccines which are easier to distribute because they don’t require such cold conditions are good for our country, so we hope to get AstraZeneca. Also, we are looking at Novavax, Johnson & Johnson as well as Pfizer. So those are the vaccines that are in play right now that are being discussed and contracted for delivery when the time comes.”

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Nigeria Records Daily Highest Cases Of COVID-19 Again

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Nigeria on Friday recorded yet another daily highest cases of COVID-19 with 1867 new infections.

These new infections have increased the total number of cases to 107,345 with 1413 deaths also reported so far.

Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial epicentre reported 713 cases on the day while Plateau reported 273 cases. The federal capital territory and Kaduna also reported more than 100 cases each.

The total number of cases were recorded in 23 states. On January 6, Nigeria had reported 1,664 cases in what was then the daily highest.

In the last 7 days, more than 13,000 samples have been found positive for COVID-19 across Nigeria while there have been spikes in case fatalities too with 8 recorded on Friday.

Read: Nigeria’s COVID-19 Cases Cross 100,000 Mark

On the same day, more than 500 recoveries were reported with Lagos recording 277. Kaduna had 150 and Plateau had 78 recoveries.

Nigeria has recorded more than 13,000 cases in the past 9 days.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian government has insisted schools must reopen with increasing cases, despite precautions taken to limit transmission.

The second wave of COVID-19 has proven to be more devastating than the first as it has taken more lives and infected more people.

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