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WHO moves to roll out first malaria vaccine in Africa

WHO moves to roll out first malaria vaccine in Africa

 As the World Health Organization (WHO) announces the next step in its rollout of the world’s first authorized malaria vaccine in three African countries, concerns about its value have come from an unlikely source: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, arguably the vaccine’s biggest backer.

WHO endorsed the vaccine last fall as a “ historic ” breakthrough in the fight against malaria, but the Gates Foundation told The Associated Press this week it will no longer financially support the shot.

Some scientists say they’re mystified by that decision, warning it could leave millions of African children at risk of dying from malaria as well as undermine future efforts to solve intractable problems in public health.

The vaccine, sold by GlaxoSmithKline as Mosquirix, is about 30% effective and requires four doses.

The malaria vaccine has “a much lower efficacy than we would like,” Philip Welkhoff, the Gates Foundation’s director of malaria programs, told the AP. Explaining its decision to end support after spending more than $200 million and several decades getting the vaccine to market, he said the shot is relatively expensive and logistically challenging to deliver.

“If we’re trying to save as many lives with our existing funding, that cost-effectiveness matters,” he said.

The Gates Foundation’s decision to pivot away from supporting the rollout of the vaccine in Africa was made years ago after detailed deliberations, including whether the foundation’s money would be better spent on other malaria vaccines, treatments or production capacity, Welkhoff said. Some of the resources that might have gone into getting the vaccine to countries have been redirected to buy new insecticidal nets, for example.

“It’s not the greatest vaccine in the world, but there are ways of using it that could have a big impact,” said Alister Craig, dean of biological sciences at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. The world is struggling to contain the spike in malaria seen since the coronavirus pandemic disrupted efforts to stop the parasitic disease, which killed more than 620,000 people in 2020 and caused 241 million cases, mainly in children under 5 in Africa, Craig said.

“It’s not like we have a lot of other alternatives,” Craig said. “There could be another vaccine approved in about five years, but that’s a lot of lives lost if we wait until then,” he said, referring to a shot being developed by Oxford University. BioNTech, creator of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, plans to apply the messenger RNA technology it used for the coronavirus to malaria, but that project is in its infancy.

Another big obstacle is availability; GSK says it can only produce about 15 million doses per year until 2028. WHO estimates that to protect the 25 million children born in Africa every year, at least 100 million doses every year might be needed. Although there are plans to transfer the technology to an Indian drugmaker, it will be years before any doses are produced.

“All the money in the world” wouldn’t alleviate the vaccine’s short-term supply constraints, said Welkhoff, of the Gates Foundation. He noted that the Gates Foundation continues to support vaccines alliance Gavi, which is investing nearly $156 million into making the shot initially available in three African countries: Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.

“We’re supporting the roll-out via the Gavi funding, but we decided we would not dedicate additional direct funding to extend the supply of the vaccine,” Welkhoff said.

On Thursday, WHO and Gavi invited developing countries to apply for funding to pay for the malaria vaccine in their countries.

“If delivered to scale, the vaccine will help to prevent millions of cases of malaria, save tens of thousands of lives and ensure a brighter future for the continent,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Africa director.

The Gates Foundation’s withdrawal of financial support for the malaria vaccine might unnerve others, Dr. David Schellenberg of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said.

“There is a risk that this could discourage others who are considering financing the malaria vaccine or even be a disincentive for people working on other vaccines,” he said. He said that combining the vaccine’s use with other measures, like distributing drugs during malaria’s peak season could dramatically reduce cases and deaths.

“We still see people coming in with four or five episodes of malaria a year,” he said. “We don’t have a magic bullet, but we could make better use of the tools we do have.”

An imperfect roll-out of the vaccine would still save lives, Dr. Dyann Wirth, an infectious diseases expert at Harvard University, said.

“We would love to have 100 million doses, but that kind of money doesn’t exist for malaria,” she said. “The 15 million doses we have is still 15 million opportunities to protect children that we didn’t previously have.” The Gates Foundation had done its part in bringing the vaccine to market and it is now up to countries, donors and other health organizations to ensure it is used, she said.

The vaccine, even with its imperfections, is eagerly awaited in Malawi.

Nolia Zidana, 32, said she is keen to get her two young sons immunized after seeing malaria sicken them numerous times — and surviving it herself.

“Growing up with my parents and siblings, we have been sick from malaria all the time,” said Zidana, who lives in Malawi’s central Ntcheu district. “My elder son has had malaria countless times within the four years that he has been around. While just at 7 months old, twice my younger son has already been down with malaria,” she said.

She said although they sleep under mosquito nets, sometimes they get bitten before going to bed as they are preparing meals for supper in the dark of the evening.

“We hear other people use mosquito repellents or burn anti-mosquito incense coils, which we cannot afford as we are just peasant farmers that live from hand to mouth,” she said.

Dr. Michael Kayange of Malawi’s Ministry of Health, urged everyone in the country to take whatever measures they can to curb malaria. Immunization itself is insufficient to stop the disease and people should adopt multiple strategies, he said.

“Even just by sleeping under a mosquito net, you have played your role in reducing the malaria burden in the country,” he said.

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Over 30 infected as new Langya virus is discovered in China

Over 30 infected as new Langya virus is discovered in China

Scientists have discovered a new virus named Langya henipavirus (LayV) in China.

The discovery was announced in a letter written by researchers from China, Singapore and Australia andpublished in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The researchers, in their letter, said Langya virus is a type of henipavirus, a category of zoonotic viruses which can be transmitted from animals to humans.

They said acute Langya infection was identified in 35 patients in the Shandong and Henan provinces of China, among whom 26 were infected with LayV only (no other pathogens were present). They said the patients are thought to have contracted the virus from animals.

“These 26 patients presented with fever (100% of the patients), fatigue (54%), cough (50%), anorexia (50%), myalgia (46%), nausea (38%), headache (35%), and vomiting (35%), accompanied by abnormalities of thrombocytopenia (35%), leukopenia (54%), and impaired liver (35%) and kidney (8%) function. A serosurvey of domestic animals detected seropositivity in goats (3 of 168 [2%]) and dogs (4 of 79 [5%]),” the letter reads.

The researchers said there is no evidence so far that Langya virus can transmit from human to human.

“There was no close contact or common exposure history among the patients, which suggests that the infection in the human population may be sporadic. Contact tracing of 9 patients with 15 close-contact family members revealed no close-contact LayV transmission, but our sample size was too small to determine the status of human-to-human transmission for LayV,” the letter reads.

The scientists added that the Langya virus LayV was found in 27% of shrews tested, suggesting the mole-like mammals may be “natural reservoirs” for the virus.

According to the BBC, Wang Linfa, one of the researchers, said the cases of Langya virus found so far have not been fatal or very serious, so there is “no need to panic”.

He, however, added that there is still a need to be on the alert as many viruses that exist in nature have unpredictable results when they infect humans.

LayV is a type of henipavirus, a category of zoonotic viruses which can jump from animals to humans.

Zoonotic viruses are very common but have attracted more attention since the start of the Covid pandemic.

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention said scientists estimate that three out of every four new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals.

The United Nations had previously warned the world will see more of such diseases with increased exploitation of wildlife and climate change.

Some zoonotic viruses can be potentially fatal to humans. These include the Nipah virus which has periodic outbreaks among animals and humans in Asia, and the Hendra virus which was first detected in horses in Australia.

Other related henipaviruses have also been found in shrews, as well as bats and rodents.

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FG Has Disbursed N100bn To Pharma Manufacturers – Buhari

FG Has Disbursed N100bn To Pharma Manufacturers – Buhari

The Federal Government has disbursed a total of N100 billion to indigenous pharmaceutical manufacturers and healthcare investors as loans to expand their capital base and boost local production of medicines and medical consumables.

President Muhammadu Buhari announced this on Tuesday in Abuja while receiving the new Executive Members of Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), according to a statement signed by presidential spokesperson Femi Adesina.

The President explained that the loan was extended through the Central Bank of Nigeria’s support to the private pharmaceutical sector.

He added that the Health Sector Reform Committee chaired by Vice-President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, is currently exploring models for revitalizing the nation’s healthcare system, in ways that improve quality of care and the benefit package to care providers.

On brain drain in the health sector, the President said he has directed the Honourable Minister of Health to look into ways of turning “brain drain” to “brain gain” by engaging top Nigerian medical experts in the diaspora in knowledge and skills repatriation.

He urged the Association and other stakeholders in the health sector to support initiatives by the Federal Government and work with the Committees set up to chart a fast track to a health system that best meets the needs of Nigerians in the 21st Century.

The President also commended the Association, which is the umbrella body of all Medical Practitioners in Nigeria, for consistently choosing peaceful resolution of differences on matters pertinent to the National health system.

‘‘I commend our medical professionals for their contribution to Nigeria’s exemplary management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the control of malaria, HIV and Tuberculosis, and other feats also achieved by Nigerian doctors in the diaspora.

‘‘Our response to COVID-19 pandemic has been praised internationally and your members are key parts of this success.

‘‘I recall that in the last quarter of 2021, the immediate past NMA Executives visited me and presented recommendations for the health sector, which included, the review and amendment of NHIS Act; upgrading and equipping existing health institutions; loans to fund hospital equipment; the repeal and re-enactment of the Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Act; and Appeal for more funding for the four (4) newly established Universities of Medical Sciences.

‘‘I am pleased to inform you that most of these recommendations have been addressed, whilst further action is being taken to study those involving cross-cutting administrative processes with legal implications.’’

The President also used the occasion to congratulate a former President of the body, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, the President-elect of the World Medical Association, the first Nigerian to hold the position.

While wishing him a successful tenure, the President expressed hope that Enabulele would use his position to support improvement in health care delivery in Nigeria and lower income countries.

He also wished the new Executive Members of NMA a successful tenure, urging them to earnestly continue to serve as arbiters of peace and progress.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, who led the medical practitioners to the audience, affirmed that the doctors have been good partners with his ministry, helping to regulate the health profession as well as stressing quality service delivery.

In his remarks, the President of the NMA, Dr Uche Rowland Ojinmah, said the new National Officers Committee (NOC) was elected on the 21st of May, 2022. He commended President Buhari for his steadfast war against corruption; assent to the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) Act which will “improve the health indices of our nation;” the constitution of the Health Reform Committee under Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; and the various infrastructural projects embarked upon by the Buhari administration.

Dr Ojinmah enjoined the President to ensure full and appropriate implementation of the NHIA Act; provision of “adequate work equipment, conducive work environment and necessary budget support;” as well as elongation of the retirement age for medical consultants to 70 years and 65 years for non-consultant doctors and other healthcare workers.

Others include: implementation of the Hazard Allowance circularized in December 2021 with the arrears; as well as the setting up of a Health Bank.

He also requested for a representation of the Federal Government at the inauguration of Dr. Enabulele in Berlin, Germany, later in the year.

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Nigerian embassy in Mexico shut as six staff test positive for COVID

Nigerian embassy in Mexico shut as six staff test positive for COVID

The Nigerian embassy in Mexico has been shut owing to an outbreak of COVID-19 at the embassy.

In a statement on Monday, Abimbola Tooki, special adviser on media to Adejare Bello, Nigerian ambassador to Mexico, said six staff of the embassy tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the statement, the ambassador, while announcing the closure, said it will last for seven days beginning from August 8.

He said the affected staff are undergoing treatment and that the situation is under control.

“The closure of the missions to forestall further spread of the virus. A total of 6.82 million cases with 328,000 deaths have so far been recorded in Mexico since the outbreak of the virus,” the statement reads.

“Bello disclosed that appropriate quarters like the ministry of foreign affairs, Abuja and that of Mexico have been duly notified of this development.

“The temporary closure, according to the ambassador, will allow the Embassy to be fumigated and all other precautions put in place while the closure lasts.

“Bello also disclosed that all home based officers and the local staffof the mission have been directed to work from home pending further directives.

“Mexico has administered at least 209 million doses of COVID vaccines so far. Assuming every person needs two doses, that’s enough to have vaccinated about 82.2% of the country’s population.The temporary closure will allow the Embassy to be fumigated among other precautionary measures.

“On April 10, 2021, Mexico reported a large number of confirmed new deaths after consolidating data from last year to include deaths that were not confirmed at the time. Two-thirds of the 2,192 deaths reported on date had occurred in 2020 and at the time were not marked down as COVID-19 fatalities.”

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