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US Govt Begins New €22.8m Lassa Vaccine Trial In Nigeria

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The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) was awarded €22.8million by the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to conduct a Phase IIb clinical trial of IAVI’s Lassa fever vaccine candidate among adults and children in Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. 

The vaccine candidate uses a recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus vector, which is now registered for use in eight African countries.

A statement by the US Mission in Nigeria, made available to The Tide via email, said, “This joint award supports an international collaboration across Africa, Europe, and North America, called the ‘Lassa Fever Vaccine Efficacy and Prevention for West Africa’ (LEAP4WA), which will also strengthen the research capacity of investigational sites where Lassa fever outbreaks and disease occur frequently. 

“The LEAP4WA consortium consists of the following members: IAVI Inc., U.S.; IAVI Stichting, Netherlands; Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, U.S.; Ministry of Health and Sanitation/Kenema Government Hospital in Sierra Leone; Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine, U.K.; University of Liberia, Liberia; Epicentre, France; and Henry M. Jackson Foundation Medical Research International Ltd/Gte (HJFMRI), Nigeria.

“In Nigeria, HJFMRI will conduct the study at its Clinical Research Center (CRC) supported by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

“Other supported WRAIR Lassa projects being implemented at the CRC and other sites across Nigeria include a Lassa incidence study in collaboration with the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), a Lassa seroprevalence study, and a potential opportunity for a CEPI-funded Phase IIa Lassa vaccine study through a WRAIR/IAVI collaboration.

“When infected with Lassa fever virus, patients exhibit a high fever accompanied by bleeding, sore throat, vomiting, and body pains.

“The zoonotic virus, which rapidly spreads through bodily fluids, is transmitted to man by an infected multi-mammate rat, (mastomys natalensis).

“The illness was first reported in the Lassa community in Borno State, Nigeria, when two missionary nurses died from an unusual febrile illness. 

“Since then, outbreaks continue to be reported in Nigeria and the disease, which is gradually becoming endemic in many parts of West Africa is now being transported to overseas country like the US and UK.

“Despite these outbreaks, there is yet no Lassa fever vaccine.

“An estimated 300,000 to 500,000 Lassa fever cases are diagnosed annually, resulting in approximately 5,000 deaths.

“The World Health Organization has identified Lassa fever as one of the top emerging pathogens likely to cause severe outbreaks in the near future.

“In 2018, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) reported the largest ever number of cases in Nigeria, with over 600 confirmed cases and over 170 deaths. 

“As of May, 2021, 14 states have recorded at least one confirmed case and over 2000 suspected cases this year, with the majority of cases emanating from Edo and Ondo states.

“CRC was established in 2014, initially supporting Phase II Ebola vaccine trials funded by Glaxo Smith Kline and Janssen. 

“Since that time, its rapidly expanding research efforts have covered a broad range of infectious diseases. Of note, current research also includes two Covid-19 studies. Site preparations are ongoing for an imminent Phase III SARS-CoV-2 candidate vaccine trial sponsored by Sanofi Pasteur.

“Under a collaborative grant application between HJFMRI and ACEGID, the CRC was selected for an Africa Centre for Disease Control grant to potentially conduct a study entitled “Assessing the Effect of SARS-CoV-2 Variants on Vaccine-induced and Naturally-acquired Immune Responses in Nigeria” (SARS-CoVAN Project), the statement added.

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Reps Urge FG To Revisit School Feeding Programme

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The House of Representatives, yesterday, urged the Federal Government to revisit the school feeding programme, suspended over sundry controversies.
The National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme was a pilot programme launched in 2004 targeting 12 states to provide a nutritious midday meal to public primary school pupils in the country:
In 2016, the programme was relaunched nationally, targeting public primary school children using locally sourced ingredients to improve health, stimulate agricultural production, and boost smallholder farmers’ income.
Recall that President Bola Tinubu, on January 12, 2024, suspended all programmes of the National Social Investment Programme Agency for six weeks.
The four programmes administered by NSIPA are N- the Power Programme, Conditional Cash Transfer Programme, Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme, and Home Grown School Feeding Programme.
Following the adoption of the motion, the House mandated its Committees on Special Duties and Finance to invite the Ministers of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Education, and Finance to revisit the program and propose solutions for its future success.”
The House, while adopting a motion on “Urgent call to revisit school feeding policy” moved by the member representing Tarauni Federal Constituency, Kano State, Mr Muktar Zakari, noted that the philosophy behind the NHGSFP is to encourage enrollment into the public primary schools, address childhood hunger pangs, and improve their ability to concentrate, learn, and increase school attendance.
The lawmaker, a member of the New Nigeria People’s Party, lamented that “The suspension of the NHGSFP by the current administration is unsettling for several reasons, namely reduced school enrollment and attendance, compromised health and cognitive development of the children, and disruption of the income of smallholder farmers.”
He also said “Addressing the programme’s challenges is crucial, but a complete suspension may cause more harm,” noting that “It is important to find alternative solutions or efficient implementation of the NHGSFP to ensure Nigerian children continue to benefit from this important initiative.”
In his words, “The cancellation of the programme is causing an upsurge in the number of out-of-school children, posing a threat to the country’s future and leading to a high rate of crimes, insecurity, and unemployment.”

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Kogi Lauds Appeal Court’s Verdict On Ododo’s Victory

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The Kogi State Government has hailed the verdict of the Appeal Court, Abuja that yesterday uAtiku hails Supreme Court judgment on LG autonomypheld the victory of the state governor, Usman Ododo.
The state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Kingsley Fanwo, made the government’s position known in an interview with journalists shortly after the judgment was delivered in Abuja.
Fanwo described the judgment as “sound,” adding that the it represents “echoes of the indisputable victory” of the governor at the poll.
He said the governor remains unwavering in his faith in the judiciary.
The conmissioner said, “Today’s judgment represents echoes of our victory on November 11, 2023. We campaigned round the state and worked hard to reassure the people that our party is the most reliable to take the state forward.
“November 11 will continue to be remembered in Kogi as the day that Kogites across the senatorial districts united to speak with one voice, birthing a resounding victory for the incumbent governor.
“Today’s verdict has offered another great opportunity for those who lost at the poll and in the courts to join the governor in moving the state forward.”
Fanwo said the court case did not in any way slow governance down as the governor has continued to “roll up his sleeves and deliver democracy dividends to the great people of the state.
“The jubilation that greeted the verdict affirming the victory of the Chief Servant of Kogi is a demonstration of the triumph of the people’s will.”
He urged the people of the state to continue to support the governor to make the state the Confluence of Excellence.

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Insecurity: Reps Want Modern Technology Deployed In Nation’s Borders

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The House of Representatives has called on the Nigeria Customs Service to deploy modern technology to secure the nation’s borders with neighbouring countries.
The directive followed the adoption of a motion on “Need to employ the use of modern technology to secure the nation’s borders,” sponsored by the member representing Awka North/Awka South Federal Constituency, Anambra State, Obiageli Orogbu at Thursday’s plenary.
Consequently, the Reps mandated “The Nigeria Customs Service to beef up the nation’s border security with modern technological gadgets.”
It also directed its Committees on National Security and Intelligence and Customs and Excise to “Interface with the relevant agencies of the executive arm to ensure implementation and report back to the House within four weeks for further legislative action.”
Leading the debate, Orogbu said that there are over 320 illegal routes into Nigeria “That serves as horrendous channels for the influx of inadmissible aliens and goods.
“Nigeria at the moment lacks sufficient security personnel to safeguard the existing illegal routes across the borders. These unmanned routes provide avenues for insecurity, proliferation of arms, and dumping of unwholesome goods into the country;
“The porous borders have provided an impetus to the thriving drug and human trafficking routes all over the country.”
Justifying the significance of the motion, the Labour Party chieftain noted that, “Border policing has since shifted from the mundane use of only human beings to the deployment of sophisticated electronic based equipment for potency.
“The deployment of technologies like electronic sensors, video monitors, and night vision scopes to detect illegal entries has proved more effective in western countries than human security.
“Advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, (drones) and dark fighter cameras are available to further enhance border controls,” she added.

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