The world has never been in a better position to end the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Tedros Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO).
This comes as the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) revealed yesterday that over 47 million eligible Nigerians have already received the COVID-19 vaccines.
Dr. Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director of the NPHCDA, made the announcement while receiving 604,000 Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines donated by mobile telecommunications firm MTN-Nigeria.
According to Reuters, it was Ghebreyesus’ most optimistic assessment of the years-long health crisis that has killed over 6 million people.
“We haven’t arrived yet.” “However, the end is in sight,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan told reporters during a virtual press conference.
That was the most upbeat assessment from the UN agency since it declared an international emergency in January 2020 and started describing COVID-19 as a pandemic three months later.
The virus, which emerged in China in late 2019, has killed nearly 6.5 million people and infected 606 million, roiling global economies and overwhelming healthcare systems.
The rollout of vaccines and therapies have helped to stem deaths and hospitalisations, and the Omicron variant which emerged late last year causes less severe disease. Deaths from COVID-19 last week were the lowest since March 2020, the UN agency reported.
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Still on Wednesday, he again urged nations to maintain their vigilance and likened the pandemic to a marathon race.
“Now is the time to run harder and make sure we cross the line and reap the rewards of all our hard work.”
Countries need to take a hard look at their policies and strengthen them for COVID-19 and future viruses, Tedros added.
He also urged nations to vaccinate 100 per cent of their high-risk groups and keep testing for the virus.
The WHO said countries needed to maintain adequate supplies of medical equipment and healthcare workers.
“We expect there to be future waves of infections, potentially at different time points throughout the world caused by different subvariants of Omicron or even different variants of concern,” said WHO’s senior epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove.
With over 1 million deaths this year alone, the pandemic remains an emergency globally and within most countries.
“The COVID-19 summer wave, driven by Omicron BA.4 and BA.5, showed that the pandemic is not yet over as the virus continues to circulate in Europe and beyond,” a European Commission spokesperson said.
WHO’s next meeting of experts to decide whether the pandemic still represents a public health emergency of international concern is due in October, a WHO spokesperson said.
“It’s probably fair to say most of the world is moving beyond the emergency phase of the pandemic response,” said Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at Southampton University.
Governments are now looking at how best to manage COVID as part of their routine healthcare and surveillance, he added
Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States have approved vaccines that target the Omicron variant as well as the original virus as countries prepare to launch winter booster campaigns.
In the United States, COVID-19 was initially declared a public health emergency in January 2020, and that status has been renewed quarterly ever since.
The US health department is set to renew it again in mid-October for what policy experts expect is the last time before it expires in January 2023.
US health officials have said that the pandemic is not over, but that new bivalent vaccines mark an important shift in the fight against the virus.
They predict that a single annual vaccine akin to the flu shot should provide a high degree of protection and return the country closer to normalcy.
NPHCDA: Over 47 Million Nigerians Vaccinated against COVID-19
Meanwhile, the NPHCDA yesterday revealed that over 47 million eligible persons in Nigeria have so far received the COVID-19 vaccines.
Executive Director of NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, disclosed this while taking delivery of the 604,000 Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines donated by mobile telecommunication firm, MTN-Nigeria.
The NPHCDA Boss who was represented at the event, Dr. Bassey Okposen, said as, “at 14th of September 2022, 47,172,937 eligible persons have received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine representing 42.2 per cent of the eligible population.”
According to him, 34,242,083 persons have been fully vaccinated, representing 30.6 per cent of eligible persons, while 3,678,412 of the fully vaccinated persons have received their booster doses,
While commending MTN for their generous offer, Shuaib said the company has demonstrated its wish to see an end to COVID-19 in Nigeria.
“One can imagine what our dear country would have been facing by now if we did not have support like the one, we are receiving from MTN today.
“The reason we are gathered here is to officially receive the donation of 604,800 Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine by MTN to Nigeria.
“MTN has been a faithful partner in development to the Government of Nigeria, and a great friend of Nigerian people. So, on behalf of the Government and people of Nigeria, I want to thank MTN for this exemplary support.
“Without equivocation, 604,800 doses of J&J vaccine means a potential 604,800 fully vaccinated Nigerians. This is to say that MTN is wishing Nigeria the fast lane to COVID-19 recovery,” he said.
Speaking at the ceremony, MTN Nigeria General Manager, Regional Operations, North, Hajia Amina Danbatta, said the company had in collaboration with African Union (AU) and the Vaccine Acquisition Test Scheme, pledged to distribute the Johnson & Johnson vaccines to Africa particularly Nigeria, where it operates, and have subscribers.
But she explained that as at 2021, the vaccines were not yet readily available for distribution.
Danbatta noted that, “In 2001, the world was hit by the pandemic and it was a time that every nation was struggling: we didn’t have the vaccines, we were struggling and learning on the go.
“But, fortunately, the vaccines were developed and these are now being distributed. Now, in conjunction with the African Union (AU) and the Vaccine Acquisition Test Scheme, MTN signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) where MTN will distribute vaccines to Africa particularly Nigeria, where we operate, where we have subscribers and where we operate our businesses.”
According to her, “And we contacted the Ministry of Health in October 2021, to express our intentions in conjunction with the AU and partners to deliver at least 604, 000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines which is about $25 billion.
“And we got approval to deliver last year and here we are today to deliver these vaccines which we believe the Ministry of Health will distribute to those in need.
“Luckily we’ve had the vaccines coming into the country but this Johnson & Johnson will also be administered to citizens of Nigeria.”
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She added that MTN, being a corporate social organisation had earlier started by educating Nigerians through messages on the six principles needed to be carried out to contain the pandemic.
Representative of the Country Director of the World Health Organisation, Dr. Walter Mulombo, said vaccines have so far proven to reduce the severity of the COVID-19 disease. He urged all stakeholders to join hands in mobilising Nigerians to come out and take the vaccines so as to stem the tide of infection.