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FG allays fear over assorted vaccines as 176,000 doses of J&J arrive today

By Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze (Abuja) and Jesutomi Akomolafe (Lagos)
11 August 2021   |   4:20 am
As concerns mount over the different brands of vaccine being imported amid resurgence in confirmed cases of COVID-19, the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), yesterday...

Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccines

• Unveils modalities for deployment of Moderna
• Lagos records 42 COVID-19 deaths in eight days
• Experts explain why fully vaccinated persons still get infected

As concerns mount over the different brands of vaccine being imported amid resurgence in confirmed cases of COVID-19, the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), yesterday, said it was, in conjunction with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), deploying tracking and tracing technology to monitor the four million doses of Moderna vaccine at all health facilities where the vaccines would be administered.

Rollout of the Moderna vaccines begins next Monday, while Nigeria will today receive 176,000 doses of Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccines out of the 29,850,000 doses that the Federal Government procured from the AFREXIM Bank through the African Union.

Executive Director/CEO of NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib, while briefing newsmen yesterday in Abuja, disclosed that the doses are meant for persons who live in hard-to-reach areas as this way, they can be given a single shot of the vaccines and get fully vaccinated instead of other vaccine types that are of two doses.

He added that the country is expecting to receive 700,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines to enable those who have received their first jab get their second dose.

The Federal Government had earlier in March received 4,024,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, out of which 3,938,945 doses had been utilised across the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

A breakdown of the number shows that 2,534,205 people have been vaccinated for the first dose, and 1,404,205 have received their second dose of the vaccine, meaning that a whopping 1,130,000 are yet to get their second jab.

According to Shuaib: “We are rolling out the second phase of the vaccination programme sequel to the first phase that ended July 9. “After the first phase, we did not have a single dose of vaccines anywhere. The launch of the vaccine should start by Monday next week.”

He noted that the agency has strategised with partners so that there is no confusion on which vaccines will be given to whom, especially now that the country has started receiving different brands of COVID-19 vaccines.

He said: “We are aware that Nigerians would want to know if there is a preferred brand. Let me assure everyone that COVID-19 vaccines, regardless of brand, as long as they have been approved by NAFDAC, provide adequate protection against the disease. We want to further assure Nigerians that we have strategised with our partners so that there is no confusion on which vaccines will be given to whom.

“For example, all those who have taken their first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine and are due for their second dose would be given their second dose this month of August as we are expecting up to 588,800 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from COVAX facility. This is the first batch that will be coming in the next couple of days, thereafter, we will be expecting up to 3.9 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to complement what we already have and to make sure we cover not only those who will be taking their second AstraZeneca vaccine but also for those who will want to take their first dose of this vaccine.”

Also speaking, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, noted that for the country to boost the uptake of vaccines, government, traditional and religious institutions, as well as community influencers need to scale up operations, investments on operational costs and step up sensitisation efforts to address vaccine hesitancy.

Mulombo said that the media has a huge social responsibility to the pandemic response in Nigeria as the society was still grappling with conspiracy theories and infodemics.

The WHO representative pointed out that weekly COVID-19 deaths in Africa reached a record peak in the week ending August 1, marking the highest seven-day toll since the onset of the pandemic in the continent.

“Africa is still in the throes of its third wave, recording more cases than any earlier peak. We must all double down on prevention measures to build on the fragile gains achieved in Nigeria amid the country’s low vaccination rate, as less than two per cent of the entire population is fully vaccinated.”

THE Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, yesterday said 42 persons have died from COVID-19-related complications in the state between August 1 and 8. Abayomi disclosed this on his Facebook account while giving the state’s COVID-19 update for the week ending August 8.

He said that eight deaths recorded on Monday increased the state’s fatalities to 42. The Commissioner, however, did not give additional information on the sex and age of the deceased persons.

Abayomi said that of 2,368 tests conducted on Monday, 219 new infections were confirmed.

MEANWHILE, experts have explained why fully vaccinated people are still getting infected with COVID-19. Experts note that none of the vaccines being already deployed are 100 per cent effective at preventing infection.

In addition, new COVID-19 strains, such as the highly infectious Delta variant, which is now prevalent around the world, have complicated the efficacy picture. There is also incomplete data into how long immunity lasts following vaccination.

Data from a recent study conducted by Imperial College London suggests that fully vaccinated people aged 18 to 64 have about a 49 per cent lower risk of being infected compared with unvaccinated people. The findings also indicated that fully vaccinated people were about three times less likely to test positive after coming into contact with someone who had COVID-19.

The alarm was raised when preliminary data in Israel, which had one of the fastest vaccination programmes in the world, published in late July, found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was just 40.5 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic disease.

The analysis, which was carried out as the Delta variant became the country’s dominant strain, still found though that having two doses of the shot provided strong protection against severe illness and hospitalisation.

A study in England carried out from April to May found that, after two doses, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 88 per cent effective against symptomatic disease caused by the Delta variant.

Prof. Lawrence Young, a virologist at the University of Warwick’s Medical School in the U.K., said cases of COVID-19 in fully vaccinated people are a reminder that “no vaccine is 100 per cent effective. There will always be a proportion of individuals who will still remain susceptible to infection and illness,” he said.

“There are also two other factors that impact vaccine effectiveness: Waning immunity, we still don’t know how long vaccine-induced protective immunity lasts. This is very likely to be a factor in those elderly and more vulnerable individuals who were vaccinated early in the vaccine rollout programme.

“The second factor relates to breakthrough infections in vaccinated individuals due to the more infectious Delta variant, which added weight to the case for booster vaccination programmes,” he said.

Also, reaching herd immunity is “not a possibility with the current Delta variant,” the head of the Oxford Vaccine Group has said.

Giving evidence to MPs in UK yesterday, Prof Sir Andrew Pollard, said the fact that vaccines did not stop the spread of COVID-19 meant reaching the threshold for overall immunity in the population was “mythical”.

“The problem with this virus is that it is not measles. If 95 per cent of people were vaccinated against measles, the virus cannot transmit in the population. But the Delta variant will still infect people who have been vaccinated. And that does mean that anyone who’s still unvaccinated at some point will meet the virus. We don’t have anything that will completely stop that transmission.”

Although the existing vaccines are very effective at preventing serious COVID-19 illness and death, they do not stop a fully vaccinated person from being infected by the virus.