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WHO reveals new team to investigate Covid origins

Covid origins

Last chance’: WHO reveals new team to investigate Covid origins

The World Health Organization has unveiled a team of scientists it wants to revive the stalled inquiry into Covid origins, with one senior official saying it may be the last chance.

The group of 26 experts will be charged with producing a new global framework for studies into the origins of emerging pathogens of epidemic and pandemic potential – and their remit includes Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies director, said it may be the “last chance to understand the origins of this virus” in a collegiate manner.

The WHO announced earlier this year it would set up a Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (Sago).

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, said Sago would urgently assess what was now known, what still remained unknown, and what rapidly needed to be done.

“I anticipate that the Sago … will recommend further studies in China and potentially elsewhere,” she said. “There’s no time to waste in this.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Chen Xu, China’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, told the UN correspondents’ association that Sago’s work should not be “politicised”.

“If we are going to send teams to any other places, I believe it’s not to China because we have received international teams twice already,” he said. “It’s time to send teams to other places.”

In August, China rejected the WHO’s calls for a renewed inquiry on the ground into the origins of Covid-19.

Besides the current Covid crisis, a growing number of high-risk pathogens have appeared or reappeared in recent years, including Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers), bird flu viruses, Lassa, Marburg and Ebola.

“The emergence of new viruses with the potential to spark epidemics and pandemics is a fact of nature, and while Sars-CoV-2 is the latest such virus, it will not be the last,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “Understanding where new pathogens come from is essential for preventing future outbreaks.”

The 26 members the WHO has put forward were chosen from a field of more than 700 applications and are drawn from a range of scientific disciplines.

The team is subject to a two-week public consultation.

They include Christian Drosten, the head of Berlin’s Institute of Virology; Yungui Yang of the Beijing Institute of Genomics; Jean-Claude Manuguerra of France’s Institut Pasteur; and Inger Damon from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Several of the experts were on the joint WHO-China scientific mission investigating the origins of Covid-19: Vladimir Dedkov, Farag Elmoubasher, Thea Fischer, Marion Koopmans, Hung Nguyen and John Watson.

The terms of reference say the group must give the WHO an independent evaluation of all available scientific and technical findings from global studies on Covid origins.

It must also advise the UN health agency on developing, monitoring and supporting the next series of studies into the origins of the virus. That could include “rapid advice” on the WHO’s operational plans to implement the next series of studies into the pandemic’s origins, and advice on additional studies.

The pandemic has killed more than 4.85 million people and battered the global economy since the virus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019.

After much delay, a WHO team of international experts went to Wuhan in January 2021 to produce a first phase report, written in conjunction with their Chinese counterparts. Their March report drew no firm conclusions, but ranked four hypotheses.

Most probable was that the virus jumped from bats to humans via an intermediate animal, it said. It judged a leak from the Wuhan virology laboratories was “extremely unlikely”.

However, the investigation faced criticism for lacking transparency and access, and for not evaluating the lab-leak theory more deeply.

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Health

AIDS Agency Chief Says 1 Out Of 100 Persons Positive In Kaduna

The Executive Secretary of Kaduna State Aids Control Agency (KADSACA), Dr Isa Baka has said a survey had revealed that one out of 100 people is positive to the AIDS disease in the state.

Baka disclosed this speaking shortly after a walk in commemoration of the World AIDS Day, on Thursday in Kaduna.

The theme of the year’s’ World AIDS Day is “Equalise to End AIDS: Equal Access to Treatment and Prevention Services’’.

He said the present statistics was a remarkable development against previous survey which gave 11 of every 100 people in the state.

Baka added that the AIDS prevalence in Kaduna, which is at 1.1, being a survey carried out by the state government itself, was later done at the national level, where that of Kaduna was confirmed as very accurate.

“At the national level, the prevalence of the virus (AIDS) was at 1.4 (four people out of 100 test positive), while that of Kaduna is confirmed to be 1.1, was in determination of the state government and KADSACA’s efforts to ensure minimal prevalence of the virus,” he said.

He said as part of efforts to continue reducing the prevalence of AIDS in the state, government initiated programmes across the 23 LGAs.

He said one of the UNICEF anchored programmes, which is the ‘Adolescent and Youths Living With HIV and AIDS’ programme, was present and effective in at least, 18 LGAs and 24 sites in the state.

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Health

Malawi Commences Large Scale Malaria Vaccination- First In The World

Malawi has commenced large-scale vaccination of children against malaria.

This is the first large-scale malaria vaccination campaign since the World Health Organisation (WHO) endorsed the widespread use of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine in October 2021.

The endorsement followed a two-year vaccination programme, which involved more than 800,000 children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.

Recommended for children from five months of age to around 18 months, the vaccine  has an efficacy of 39 percent.

The first phase of the vaccination in Malawi is expected to cover 11 of the country’s 28 districts.

In a tweet on Tuesday, the WHO in Malawi said the expansion of access to the malaria vaccine will enable more children at risk of malaria to benefit from an additional prevention tool.

“Malawi has expanded access to the first malaria vaccine! The expansion of the RTS,S Malaria vaccine, into the 11 districts that participated in the malaria vaccine implementation program (MVIP) has been launched today. The vaccine offers a glimmer hope for Malawi,” WHO wrote.

Michael Kayange, Malawi’s national malaria control programme manager, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa that although the vaccine has low efficacy, “in malaria control, there is no single intervention that does it all”.

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Health

Nigeria Yet To Attain 70% Covid-19 Vaccination Coverage- NPHCDA

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has disclosed that Nigeria is yet to achieve 70 percent coverage for COVID-19 vaccination.

Faisal Shuaib, executive director of NPHCDA, said on Tuesday that as of November 25, a total of 56,790,371 eligible persons targeted for COVID-19 vaccination are fully vaccinated while 12,492,646 are partially vaccinated in 36 states and the FCT.

“We are 21.6 million eligible persons away from reaching its target of fully vaccinating 70 percent of its eligible population by December 2022,” he said.

“But 62 percent of the country’s eligible population is at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The country has fully vaccinated half of the total population eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

“We have also fully vaccinated an additional over 25 percent of its eligible population, in the last 110 days of SCALES 3.0 implementation.”

The executive director said 13.2 percent of fully vaccinated persons in the country have received the COVID-19 booster dose for additional protection against the virus.

He commended the COVID-19 strategy group for achieving 50 percent vaccination coverage in the country and promised that the momentum would be sustained.

Shuaib said he has also directed the team to intensify efforts toward the attainment of herd immunity.

“Until this is achieved, the strategy group will continue to develop strategies that will help the country achieve health security,” he said.

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