COVID-19 Weekly: ASUU Strike Continues as Schools Reopen, South Africa to Start Manufacturing Vaccine
In the last 7 days, 31,535 Nigerians have been tested for the COVID-19 across all states. Out of this number, only 2,236 have tested positive for the COVID-19 while the others tested negative.
This is a decrease from the 3,361, 2434 and 2629 cases that were confirmed in the weeks before. As a result of the decline, some schools are being reopened in the country. As economies are cautiously reopened, countries are continuing in their efforts to develop or procure vaccines for the virus globally.
US to start mass distribution of COVID-19 vaccine by November 1
States in the US are ready to receive a COVID-19 vaccine that is expected to be available by November 1. This followed a directive by Director of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield. The directive mandated that distribution sites be ready to operate by that time.
The distributor contracted by the government for the vaccine is Mckesson Corp., and facility permit applications for the company are being hastened to ensure that all is in place by November 1. Rules that can prevent the distribution sites from being operational are to be waived, as per the directive.
Even though the US president Donald Trump had previously accused the Food and Drugs Administration of deliberately slowing vaccine development, the specified date suggests that the vaccine may be ready before the US elections that is to hold on November 3.
South Africa plans to start manufacturing COVID-19 vaccine
South Africa has a deal in the works that might make it the first African country to mass-produce a vaccine for COVID-19. The production will be a result of a partnership with the company that is developing the vaccine.
The Biologicals and Vaccines Institute of Southern Africa (Biovac Institute) and several other Vaccine manufacturers are considered to have the capacity to package the vaccine doses into sterile dispensers once clinical trials are successful.
According to the Chairperson of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, Helen Rees, “Covid-19 has really thrown into focus that we have very limited capacity for vaccine manufacturing across the African continent, even in countries like South Africa. But there’s tremendous interest and we need to have more countries being able to manufacture vaccines.”
The organization says it is considering Biovac Institute as a full-finish site for the vaccine manufacturing. Having vaccine manufacturing sites on the continent will increase the potential of people having access to immunization for the virus.
In Nigeria, the vice-president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, has gotten assurance from pfizer that the country will remain a priority when the company’s COVID-19 vaccine has been certified and is available for procurement.
Universities and schools to reopen, but ASUU is still on strike
After being shut down for about 6 months, schools are beginning to reopen in different states in Nigeria. The directive to reopen has been given by respective state governments while the federal government still maintains a cautionary stance on the reopening.
In Lagos, tertiary institutions will reopen on September 21 while the basic schools will resume on September 14. The number of confirmed cases in the state has seen a decline which has encouraged the move to reopen schools and move the economy into a faster pace.
In Osun state, primary, secondary and tertiary institutions are preparing to reopen on the 21st of September while those in Kogi state will resume on September 14.
As tertiary institutions prepare to reopen, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, however, has said that lecturers will not be resuming to work yet.
The ASUU zonal coordinator of the University of Ibadan, Unilorin, UniOsun, KWASU, and Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Professor Ade Adejumo, said at a news conference in Kwara, that the demands of ASUU have not been met by the federal government since it went on a nationwide strike on March 23.
The demands include a review and implementation of UTAS, the software developed by ASUU to replace the federal government’s IPPIS, as well as providing facilities in the universities that would curtail the spread of the COVID-19.
Adejumo said, “We want to say that, if the federal government announce the school’s resumption today, without attending to our demands, our union will not resume duties”
FG says bilateral scholarships delayed because of COVID-19
The federal government is supposed to have concluded the 2020 scholarship awards but says the exercise has been delayed due to the COVID-19. The program gives overseas scholarship to candidates under the 2020 Bilateral Education Agreement (BEA).
The reason for the delay was made known by the Federal Ministry of Education when it responded to a fake list of successful applicants that was being shared on social media.
A statement signed by the Ministry’s Director of Press, Mr Ben Goong, said that the list of successful candidates is not yet out and will be officially released on the Ministry’s website.
The statement reads, “The Ministry wishes to state that the list which has been partly extracted and manipulated from applications received by the Ministry only for awards obtainable for Russia, did not emanate from the Ministry and is purely the handiwork of mischief-makers.”
EU to buy $478m Worth of COVID-19 vaccine for low and middle-income countries
The European Commission has announced that it is contributing $478 million in guarantees to purchase COVID-19 vaccine from a World Health Organization (WHO) led initiative.
The COVAX initiative’s purpose is to purchase 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine for all countries in the world by the end of 2021. The vaccine will be bought from several vaccine developers.
The $478 million contribution is to be used to purchase doses for countries with low and middle-income.
Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission’s President, said, “the Commission is announcing a 400 million euro contribution to COVAX for working together in purchasing future vaccines to the benefit of low and middle-income countries.’’
The European commission is reportedly in advanced talks with different vaccine makers on behalf of the 27 EU states. One of them, Moderna Inc. announced last week that it had concluded talks with the EU to supply 80 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273.
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