NAFDAC approves AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

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The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has approved AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for use in Nigeria

The Director-General of NAFDAC, Dr. Mojisola Adeyeye in a briefing said it got the dossier of the vaccine a week ago noting that it can be stored at 2 to 8-degree centigrade.

According to the NAFDAC Boss, there are three additional vaccines undergoing evaluation, but the evaluation on Astrazeneca shows that the vaccine is effective against the UK variant of the virus which has been reported in Nigeria.

Dr. Adeyeye disclosed that the South African variant has not been reported in Nigeria, adding that the agency has over 30 herbal medicine undergoing review for listing.

NAFDAC’s endorsement of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine came after a team of scientists at the University of Edinburgh said B1525 variant of the virus whose earliest sequences were dated to December and cropped up in the UK and Nigeria could be vaccine-resistant.

The variant is said to contain the E484K mutation, which is present in the virus variants found in South Africa and Brazil. The E484K mutation is “thought to help the virus evade neutralizing antibodies”.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, also known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, or AZD1222, is a viral vector vaccine. Scientists used an adenovirus, originally derived from chimpanzees, and modified it with the aim of training the immune system to mount a strong response against SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).

It is only the second COVID-19 jab to have received WHO authorisation, after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

“The WHO  listed two versions of the AstraZeneca-Oxford Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, giving the green light for these vaccines to be rolled out globally through Covax,” the UN health agency said in a statement.

Read Also: Beware, fake COVID-19 vaccines in circulation, NAFDAC warns

The two versions given the seal of approval are being produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII), and by SKBio in South Korea.

Separate reviews were needed for each production process, although the vaccine is the same.

“Countries with no access to vaccines to date will finally be able to start vaccinating their health workers and populations at risk, contributing to the Covax facility’s goal of equitable vaccine distribution,” said WHO Assistant Director-General Mariangela Simao.

“But we must keep up the pressure to meet the needs of priority populations everywhere and facilitate global access. To do that, we need two things — a scale-up of manufacturing capacity, and developers’ early submission of their vaccines for WHO review.”

However, the Nigerian government is looking to vaccinate a large percentage of its about 200 million population this year.

The African biggest economy has missed out on the first phase of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, as WHO claimed the country doesn’t have adequate facility to store the vaccine.

The 100,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine initially expected in the country were replaced with 16 million doses of Astrazeneca vaccine.

As of Wednesday, Nigeria had recorded 148,500 cases of the viral infection including 1779 deaths.