US Donates 200 Ventilators to Help Nigeria Fight COVID-19

Minister of state for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire

•WHO to validate Russia’s vaccine

By Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Martins Ifijeh in Lagos

The United States yesterday redeemed its pledge to assist Nigeria to combat the COVID-19 pandemic with the donation of 200 ventilators.

This is coming as the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said it will subject Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine to rigorous review before approving it for human use.

While presenting the ventilators to the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms. Mary Leonard, said Washington donated the over 200 ventilators to support Nigeria’s efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said: “This donation, and the many other health and humanitarian assistance programmes offered from the American people over the years, is just one component of the strong cooperation between our two governments.

“I laud Nigeria’s efforts in taking early action to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. I hope to see Nigeria continue this trajectory, as an example for other African nations to follow.”

Leonard said the ventilators were compact, deployable, and would provide Nigeria with flexibility in treating COVID-19 patients.

“As the US Ambassador to Nigeria, I remain proud of the strong friendship between our two countries. Working together in partnership with this country’s government and its citizens, the American people are committed to working with Nigeria to implement effective disease surveillance efforts,” she said.

Earlier, while commending the US government, Ehanire had urged Washington to support global efforts to find efficacious therapeutics and vaccines to neutralise the threat of COVID-19 to the global community and to guarantee fair allocation to all countries and people.

“The speed and the ease with which COVID-19 has spread across the globe clearly shows that it is a threat to mankind. Without the full collaboration of all nations, the threat of the pandemic to any one part of the world is a threat to all,” he said.

Meanwhile, WHO has said it will subject Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine to rigorous review before approving it for human use.

Russia’s President, Mr. Vladimir Putin, had earlier yesterday said the country had become the first in the world to approve a COVID-19 vaccine offering ‘sustainable immunity’ against the virus.

But at a press briefing held later yesterday in Geneva, the spokesman of WHO, Mr. Tarik Jasarevic, said the global health body would only approve any COVID-19 vaccine after subjecting it to a rigorous safety data review.

He said: “We are in close contact with the Russian health authorities and discussions are ongoing with respect to possible WHO pre-qualification of the vaccine. Pre-qualification of any vaccine includes the rigorous review and assessment of all the required safety and efficacy data.”

According to him, every country has a national regulatory agency that approves the use of vaccines or medicines on its territory, adding that “WHO has in place a process of pre-qualification for vaccines but also for medicines.”

Manufacturers ask to have the WHO pre-qualification because it is a sort of stamp of quality.

“To get this, there is a review and assessment of all required safety and efficacy data that are gathered through the clinical trials. WHO will do this for any candidate vaccine.”

The pandemic has seen an unprecedented mobilisation of funding and research to rush through a vaccine that can protect billions of people worldwide.

“We are encouraged by the speed by which several candidate vaccines have been developing and as we have been always saying, we hope some of these vaccines will prove to be safe and efficient. Accelerating progress does not mean compromising on safety,” he said.

Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine has been developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute in coordination with the country’s defence ministry.

A total of 165 candidate vaccines are being worked on around the world, according to the latest WHO overview produced on July 31.

Of those, 139 are still in pre-clinical evaluation, while the other 26 are in the various phases of being tested on humans, of which six are ahead, having reached phase three of clinical evaluation.

The Gamaleya candidate being produced in Russia, which is among the 26 being tested on humans, is listed as being in phase one.

The Head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which finances the vaccine project, Kirill Dmitriev, said phase three trials would start today, industrial production is expected from September and that 20 countries have pre-ordered more than a billion doses.