The Federal Government has defended the safety and efficacy of the AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine following fears raised in some quarters.
Concerns over safety of COVID-19 vaccines went up yesterday when Austria reportedly suspended vaccinations with a batch of AstraZeneca’s vaccine as a precaution following the death of one person and the illness of another after the shots.
The Austrian Federal Office for Safety in Health Care (BASG) said a 49-year-old woman died as a result of severe coagulation disorders. It also confirmed another 35-year-old woman developed a pulmonary embolism and is now recovering.
BASG, however, said: “Currently there is no evidence of a causal relationship with the vaccination.”Swiss newspaper Niederoesterreichische Nachrichten as well as broadcaster ORF and the APA news agency reported that the women were both nurses who worked at the Zwettl clinic.
BASG said blood clotting was not among the known side effects of the vaccine and confirmed it was pursuing its investigation vigorously to completely rule out any possible link.
It noted the vaccine had been approved by the European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organisation (WHO) based on a global clinical programme involving 23,000 participants.
Recall that two months ago, South Africa rejected about 1.5 million doses of the same vaccine after evidence emerged that the vaccine did not protect clinical-trial participants from mild or moderate illness caused by the more contagious virus variant that was first seen in the country.
Apart from the concerns raised in Austria and South Africa, preliminary results from a trial of the vaccines are not clear and did not reflect data from older people, the New York Times reported.
Nigeria commenced vaccination with the Oxford vaccines last Friday with Cyprian Ngong, a medical doctor becoming the first person to receive a jab in Nigeria. The rollout started with healthcare workers who are often at the risk of exposure to infections being the first responders to patients.
Furthermore, concerns about the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine have also hampered its rollout in Italy, with some refusing to have the jab as they believe the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines offer more protection.
But Chairman, Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said Monday at a media briefing in Abuja that he was leading all members of the PTF to receive the first doses of the vaccine as a further demonstration of the safety and efficacy.
“Let me underscore at this point that in this war, we are all involved in this because nobody is safe until everybody is safe. Our ultimate objective is to vaccinate about 70 per cent of our population which is about 200 million, between year 2021 and 2022,” he said.
Reacting to apathy and hesitancy over COVID-19 vaccines, Mustapha said: “Nigerians should never allow vaccine hesitancy propagated through conspiracy theories sway you from the path of doing the right thing. Taking the vaccines will protect you, your loved ones and the entire community. I similarly wish to warn against patronizing unauthorized vaccines peddlers. The only recognised safe and efficacious vaccines are those coming through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA). We should remain vigilant.”
Mustapha, Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire and his Information and Culture counterpart, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, among other members of the task force yesterday received their first dose of Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine.
Others were the Minister of Environment, Muhammad Mahmood; Minister of State for Health, Olorunnimbe Mamora; Director-General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chikwe Ihekweazu; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeoma, and the National Incident Manager, PTF, Mukhtar Muhammad, among others.
Also, four journalists who are considered part of the critical front-liners in the fight against the virus received the vaccine in a representative manner. They were Friday Okoregbe, Channels Television; Hassan Umar Faruk, Liberty Television; Nancy Oyediya Urum, Africa Independent Television (AIT); and Rahila Lassa, Voice of Nigeria (VON).
The vaccines were administered by Obuba Horsefall, the supervising nurse, Adaga Lucy and Obodia Ogonna, after which each of them was issued a vaccination card showing they have received the first dose of the vaccine and when they will receive the second dose.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Prof Ibrahim Gambari also received the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine yesterday. The public vaccination, officials say, is to reassure Nigerians and douse skepticisms about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.
Gambari was given the jab after e-registration and filling of their vaccination card. He sat for 15 minutes as prescribed by the vaccination routine. The Chief of Staff was thereafter presented with vaccination card by the Chief Medical Director of the State House Medical Centre, Dr Husain Munir.
The Chairman/CEO of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Gen. Mohammed Buba Marwa (rtd), Permanent Secretary of the State House, Tijjani Umar, and Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, also received jabs and were all consequently handed vaccination cards.
In his remarks, Gambari said the vaccination was painless and that he followed the footsteps of President Buhari, who demonstrated leadership alongside his deputy to receive the jabs on Saturday. He advised eligible Nigerians to take the vaccines, assuring that it is safe.