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Hope rises for COVID-19 vaccine access

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*New 90-minute test 94% accurate, can be done at home, scientists find

There is fresh hope in the horizon that ‘poor’ countries including Nigeria will have ‘easy’ access to a World Health Organisation (WHO) approved COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it becomes available.

This is because, the WHO, on Monday, announced 64 higher income economies have joined the COVAX Facility, a global initiative that brings together governments and manufacturers to ensure eventual COVID-19 vaccines reach those in greatest need, whoever they are and wherever they live. These 64 economies include commitments from 35 economies as well as the European Commission, which will procure doses on behalf of 27 EU member states plus Norway and Iceland.

By pooling financial and scientific resources, these participating economies will be able to insure themselves against the failure of any individual vaccine candidate and secure successful vaccines in a cost-effective, targeted way.

According to a statement by the WHO, the 64 members of the Facility will be joined by 92 low- and middle-income economies eligible for support for the procurement of vaccines through the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), a financing instrument aimed at supporting the procurement of vaccines for these countries. This means that 156 economies, representing roughly 64 per cent of the global population in total, are now either committed to or eligible for the COVAX Facility, with more to follow.

The COVAX Facility is part of COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the World Health Organization (WHO) – working in partnership with developed and developing country vaccine manufacturers, United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), the World Bank, Civil Society Organisations and others.

MEANWHILE, with the Commitment Agreements secured, the COVAX Facility will now start signing formal agreements with vaccine manufacturers and developers, which are partners in the COVAX effort, to secure the doses needed to end the acute phase of the pandemic by the end of 2021. This is in addition to an ongoing effort to raise funding for both Research and Development (R&D) and for the procurement of vaccines for lower-income countries via the Gavi COVAX AMC.

An Allocation Framework released Monday September 21, 2020, by WHO following the principle of fair and equitable access, ensuring no participating economy will be left behind, will guide the allocation of vaccines, once licensed and approved. Policies determining the prioritization of vaccine rollout within economies will be guided by recommendations from the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE), which has recently released a Values Framework laying the groundwork for subsequent guidance on target populations and policies on vaccine use.

Also, a new 90-minute coronavirus test is 94 per cent accurate and can be done at home, experts have revealed.

The rapid testing device does not require a lab and so far the government has placed an order for 5.8 million of the kits. It comes as people across the country have scrambled to get tested for the virus as many sites have reached full capacity.

The new development could help people decipher whether or not they have the virus within two hours.

Scientists at Imperial College London found that high-speed tests can be performed in cartridges smaller than a mobile phone.

Researchers used the CovidNudge devices on 386 British National Health Service (NHS) staff and patients.

Analysis published in the journal The Lancet Microbe, revealed that the test had shown 94 per cent sensitivity and 100 per cent specificity.

This means that it is highly accurate and produces few false negatives and no false positives.

The sensitive gauge measures how well a test gives positive results for people who have a disease and is also an indication of how likely it is a test will produce false negatives.

Lead author of the study from the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial, Prof. Graham Cooke, said: “These results suggest the test, which can be performed at a patient’s bedside without the need to handle any sample material, has comparable accuracy to standard laboratory testing.

“Many tests involve a trade-off between speed and accuracy, but this test manages to achieve both.

“Developing an effective bedside test in under three months has been an incredible collaboration between teams of engineers, clinicians and virologists.”

Until now, several experts have promoted the idea of developing an antigen test that is cheap and simple enough to use at home, without a health-care worker administering it.

Beyond concerns about costs and availability, researchers worry that, with an over-the-counter test, people who get positive results might not follow up with public-health authorities, so their contacts won’t be traced.

Another concern is that people will get a false sense of security from tests that have only limited accuracy.

However, experts insists that even when testing negative, people should continue to wash their hands, wear masks and avoid gathering in big groups.


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