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‘Why UK imposed travel restrictions on vaccinated Nigerians’

How to meet global COVID-19 targets, by WHO, UN

Chairman, Expert Review Committee on COVID-19, Prof. Oyewole Tomori, has provided reasons why the United Kingdom imposed travel restrictions on vaccinated Nigerians.

The virologist, who is also a member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Technical Advisory Group on COVID-19 Vaccine Composition, noted that though the checks were to be relaxed from this month, Nigerians would still go on quarantine with full vaccination because the AstraZeneca vaccine deployed by Nigeria is not recognised by the United Kingdom.

He said reports indicated that over a thousand Nigerians departing with negative COVID-19 certificates arrive in the UK, Ghana and other countries testing positive.

Tomori linked the development to the proliferation of fake documentation.

The don told The Guardian: “The issue is more than vaccination programme. Your vaccine must have the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) authorisation. It is not really correct that all WHO-listed vaccines are UK-approved.”

According to him, the British government-sanctioned jabs are Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 (now being marketed as Comirnaty); Moderna (Spikevax); Oxford-AstraZeneca (codenamed AZD1222 and sold under the brand names Covishield and Vaxzevria) and Ad26.COV2.S (Johnson & Johnson) viral vector-Janssen.

He observed that those fully vaccinated with Covishield vaccines would still need to quarantine due to an issue with certification, adding: “I think it is important to check the criteria used by the UK in classifying countries into the red amber and green (RAG) categories. These are rates of COVID-19 infection, percentage of people being vaccinated, the prevalence of COVID-19 variants and access to reliable genomic sequencing.”

Tomori clarified: “The vaccine in use in Nigeria is not the same as that approved by the British control agency. They use AstraZeneca made in Europe, and we use vaccines made in Indian and not yet approved by Britain. They may be the same vaccine, but they are manufactured at different sites. For example, a National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) approval for a pure water factory in Ikeja is not transferable to the factory of the same company in Aba.”

BESIDES, the United Nations (UN), through the World Health Organisation (WHO), has set out plans on how to meet global vaccination targets.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a statement, yesterday, said by working with COVAX, African Vaccine Acquisition Trust and other partners, the world can and must meet the targets to vaccinate 40 per cent of the population of all countries by the end of this year and 70 per cent by mid-2022.

They said vaccine supply gaps to COVAX must be shut immediately for nations to achieve the year-end goal, calling on countries and manufacturers to make good their commitments forthwith.

The WHO, therefore, yesterday, launched the Strategy to Achieve Global COVID-19 Vaccination by mid-2022 (the Strategy) to bring an end to what has become a two-track pandemic: people in poorer countries continuing to be at risk, while those in richer countries with high vaccination rates enjoying much greater protection.

WHO had set a target to vaccinate 10 per cent of every country, economy and territory by the end of September, but on the date, 56 nations could not meet up, with the vast majority of them being in Africa and the Middle East.

The new strategy outlines a plan for achieving WHO’s targets to vaccinate 40 per cent of the population of every country by the end of this year and 70 per cent by mid-2022.

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