Biden announces 13-member COVID-19 panel
• Promises more aggressive steps to fight pandemic in U.S.
• Victory may be pyrrhic, says Fani-Kayode
• Pfizer produces 90 per cent effective coronavirus vaccine
The legal challenge mounted by President Donald Trump against his electoral victory notwithstanding, U.S. President-elect, Joe Biden, yesterday announced a 13-member COVID-19 advisory board to tackle the pandemic.
COVID-19 was a major factor in the 2020 elections, as Democrats rode on the back of Trump’s denial of the impact to win the election.
The panel is to be led by Dr. David Kessler, former commissioner for Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Vivek Murthy, former Surgeon General and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith of the Yale University School of Medicine.
The transition COVID-19 advisory board would guide preparations of Biden’s federal response to the coronavirus pandemic until he assumes office in January.
“Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts,” Biden said.
“The advisory board will help shape my approach to managing the surge in reported infections; ensuring vaccines are safe, effective, and distributed efficiently, equitably, and free; and protecting at-risk populations,” Biden said.
With 9.9 million cases, the U.S. has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus infections worldwide, according to data by the Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. also has the highest numbers of fatalities at 237,000 virus-related deaths.
Biden routinely slammed President Donald Trump for the current administration’s handling of the crisis.
AS Biden plots his presidential transition, Trump is still refusing to concede the election and has launched a flurry of court filings challenging the result.
While analysts are skeptical that Trump’s legal challenges could affect the outcome in any significant way, some have expressed reservations over Biden’s confidence about the final outcome.
Former Nigerian Aviation minister, Femi Fani-Kayode said whether anyone wishes to accept it or not, “the fact of the matter is that the election results have not been confirmed and the Electoral College has not formally met and declare the outcome.”
To add to that, Fani-Kayode noted in his verified twitter account, that there are serious and credible claims of fraud, cheating, perfidy, voter suppression and election irregularities, which the courts are yet to look into.
According to him, there is still a long way to go before the whole matter is brought to an end and formally concluded.
He said: “Congratulating the candidate of a political party that may well have ruthlessly and corruptly rigged his way to what is likely to end up being a pyrrhic and short-lived victory is not in our nation’s interest, not the way to enhance strengthen, support and entrench democracy and does not speak well of those who have done so.
“Whether you support Biden or Trump, let us, at least, wait for the matter to be properly concluded and a winner officially declared by the relevant authorities before we start dishing out our congratulatory messages. If President Donald Trump eventually prevails and he is sworn in on January 20th for a second term, there are going to be a lot of very red faces on the world stage.”
While Trump has still refused to concede defeat and, so, unwilling to constitute transition panel, Biden team has started a transition website and twitter account.
MEANWHILE, Drugmaker, Pfizer yesterday said an early look at data from its Coronavirus vaccine shows it is more than 90 per cent effective, a much better than expected efficacy if the trend continues.
Its interim analysis looked at the first 94 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the more than 43,000 volunteers who got either two doses of the vaccine or a placebo. It found that fewer than 10 per cent of infections were in participants who had been given the vaccine. More than 90 per cent of the cases were in people who had been given a placebo.
Pfizer said that the vaccine, made with German partner BioNTech, had an efficacy rate higher than 90 per cent at seven days after the second dose, which means protection is achieved 28 days after a person begins vaccination. The vaccine requires two doses. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said it would expect at least 50 per cent efficacy from any coronavirus vaccine.
In an interview with CNN, Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta yesterday, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla called the COVID-19 vaccine “the greatest medical advance” in the last 100 years.
“Emotions are very high. You can imagine how I felt when I heard the results yesterday at 2 p.m. I think that, based on impact, this will be the greatest medical advance in the last 100 years,” Bourla said.
NIGERIANS, yesterday, expressed excitement over the possibility that 1.3 billion doses of the vaccine could be available for use before the end of 2020.
The companies have said they should be able to produce 1.3 billion doses, enough to vaccinate 650 million people by the end of 2021. Only 50 million doses are expected to be available in 2020.
According to reports, Pfizer shares rose eight per cent in early trading, with BioNTech American depositary receipts up about 19 per cent. The news added more than $500 billion to the value of the MSCI All Country World Index.
A virologist and Chairman, Expert Review Committee on COVID-19, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, urged caution, adding, “We should wait to see the duration of immunity. There is a need to further study the details of the trial as development of antibodies to the vaccine does not necessarily equate to efficacy, that is, actual protection against the disease, under natural challenge.”
Chief Executive Officer (CEO)/Director General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the world urgently needs an effective vaccine. “We are waiting for the approval by relevant bodies, especially the World Health Organisation (WHO).”
A vaccinologist and former researcher at the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD) Abuja, Dr. Simon Agwale, said, “We are already reviewing the results.”
Prior to the breakthrough, “there were about 15 clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines in Africa. It was time for Nigeria to build its clinical trial capacity so that the country could participate in important studies,” he said.
An Ikeja-based medical expert, Prof. Oladapo Ashiru said, “A vaccine for COVID-19 is a welcomed initiative. It would begin to drive down rapidly the number of daily cases of the infection. It can therefore be projected that by the early 2021 life can return back to normal.”