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COVID-19: NAFDAC approves AstraZeneca vaccine for use in Nigeria

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THE National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has approved the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria.

Mojisola Adeyeye, director-general of NAFDAC, who made the announcement during a live briefing on Thursday, said that the vaccine could be stored at 2 to 8-degree centigrade.

According to her, there were three additional vaccines undergoing evaluation, but the examination on Astrazeneca showed that it was effective against the UK variant of the virus which had been reported in Nigeria.

Adeyeye disclosed that the South African variant had not been reported in Nigeria, adding that the agency had over 30 herbal medicines undergoing review for listing.

The vaccine was recently approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for emergency use. Adeyeye said NAFDAC had the dossier of the vaccine and the agency’s Safety Committee went to work immediately after the WHO approval to evaluate its safety and efficacy for Nigerians.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, also known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, or AZD1222, is a viral vector vaccine. Scientists used an adenovirus, originally derived from chimpanzees, modifying it with the aim of training the immune system to mount a strong response against SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).

It is only the second COVID-19 vaccine to have received WHO authorisation, after the Pfizer-BioNTech.

“The WHO  listed two versions of the AstraZeneca-Oxford Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, giving the green light for these vaccines to be rolled out globally through Covax,” the UN health agency said in a statement.
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The two versions are being produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII) and by SKBio in South Korea.

Separate reviews were needed for each production process, although the vaccine was the same.

“Countries with no access to vaccines to date will finally be able to start vaccinating their health workers and populations at risk, contributing to the Covax facility’s goal of equitable vaccine distribution,” said Mariangela Simao, WHO assistant director-general.

“But we must keep up the pressure to meet the needs of priority populations everywhere and facilitate global access. To do that, we need two things — a scale-up of manufacturing capacity, and developers’ early submission of their vaccines for WHO review.”

The organisation’s emergency use listing procedure assesses the quality, safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, and is a prerequisite for vaccines in the WHO co-led Covax facility.

AstraZeneca vaccines from India and South Korea made up almost all of the initial 337.2 million doses lined up for Covax’s first wave of distribution, which will be rolled out in late February.

Some 145 participating economies are set to receive enough doses to immunise 3.3 percent of their collective population by mid-2021.

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The first wave includes 240 million SII AstraZeneca doses; 96 million South Korean AstraZeneca doses; and 1.2 million Pfizer doses.

Both vaccines require two injected doses.

“We now have all the pieces in place for the rapid distribution of vaccines,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference recently.

The number of reported COVID-19 cases globally has dropped for a fifth consecutive week, nearly halving from more than five million in the week of January 4, to 2.6 million in the week commencing  February 8.

Since its outbreak in March, Nigeria has recorded 149,369 COVID-19 cases with 1,787 fatalities but over 125,722 recoveries. The country is currently experiencing the second wave of the virus with more infections being recorded in the past month than at any other time.

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