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No panic over vaccine—Government

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Government says it will continue to administer AstraZeneca Vaccine despite European countries such as Denmark, Norway and Iceland having temporarily suspended its rollout following reports of blood clots.

Others such as Italy and Austria have stopped using certain batches of the drug as a precautionary measure.

In an interview with Malawi News Friday, Co-Chairpeson of the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 Wilfred Chalamira Nkhoma said government will continue with its plans to administer the vaccine.

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“What they have found in the European Union report is that when they did a small analysis, they have seen a small difference in the occurrence of this condition in those that have received the vaccine compared to those that have not received. But they are continuing to collect more information because the sample size was not a lot because not too many people have received the vaccine,” he said.

He pointed out that as of now, there is no evidence that the clots that have been observed were a result of the vaccine.

“On that basis, on the basis of what we already know about the safety of the vaccine and efficaciousness of the vaccine, we are continuing with our plans to administer the vaccine. Of course like the others, we will be collecting actively side effects by those that have received the vaccine,” he said.

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Nkhoma said they are aware of the suspension reports but was quick to say that according to investigations that have so far been done by European Medicines Agency (EMA), there is no sufficient evidence to suggest that the blood clots are a result of the vaccine.

“Just like the regulatory bodies of Europe EMA have said, as of now there is no evidence that the reaction which has been seen in the countries have influenced the suspending of the of vaccine,” he said.

Commenting on the same, epidemiologist Titus Divala said the current suspensions are premature, arguing none of the reports he has seen have addressed critical questions.

“Is the rate of the worrying event higher in the vaccinated population compared to the unvaccinated? In this case, reports indicate that the rates of clotting events are not any higher in vaccinated people compared to the unvaccinated. Even UK where millions have received the vaccine, no such increase in rates of clotting events have been registered. So far, the vaccine seems safe: was safe in clinical trials, and seems to maintain safety standards at population level,” he said.

Blantyre District Health Office spokesperson Chrissy Banda said there are several myths and rumours about the pandemic, which in turn has affected accessibility of health services.

“This is a challenge to us as health workers, we have seen a drop in number of patients who seek services. For instance, women who come for maternal health services, there are some services which they are supposed to receive through injection the women are shunning it thinking we will administer the Covid-19 vaccine,” she said.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), while the AstraZeneca vaccine has yet to be recommended for an Emergency Use Listing by WHO, it has undergone review by the EMA and consequently meets WHO’s criteria for SAGE consideration.

The EMA has thoroughly assessed the data on the quality, safety and efficacy of the vaccine and has recommended granting a conditional marketing authorisation for people aged 18 and above.

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