COVID-19 Vaccine Miseries: Is Liberia Paying Attention?

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The Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, once considered a game-changer, has of late been plagued with safety concerns that vaccinated people have developed serious blood clotting issues.

— European Countries halt AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines as Liberia prepares to administer

Germany, France, Spain, and Italy, some of the highly hit COVID-19 countries, have joined a growing list of European countries to suspend the AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccines, which the government of Liberia is expected to unleash on its population very soon.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine—once touted as a game-changer, has lately been plagued by safety issues with vaccinated people developing serious blood clotting problems. In some cases, deaths involving three Italians had occurred after developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT) following a dose of the jab.

Also, according to the BBC an Austrian lady succumbed to death ten days after taking the AstraZeneca vaccine because of “severe blood coagulation problems,” while in Demark health authorities have remained tight-lipped on the death of one of its citizens who got the vaccine, even though it has suspended the use of the vaccines following the incidents.

Despite the growing suspension of the vaccine, the Government of Liberia is preparing to begin its vaccination program with 96,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines, which were given to the country under the COVAX initiative, a partnership between Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations Gavi, UNICEF and World Health Organization WHO.

Liberia’s vaccination program, according to a circular from the Incident Management on COVID-19, is expected to be administered in three phases up to September 2021. According to a “draft roadmap” Liberia’s inoculation (vaccination) program is expected to begin with the 103 members of the Legislature, 1500 members of the Executive Branch and the Chief Justices and Associate Justices, as well as, representatives of the community.

A Health Ministry official told the Daily Observer recently that the draft COVID vaccine roadmap “is one of several vaccine rollout scenarios under consideration, to see which is the most feasible.”

The draft roadmap suggests it will then be followed by the vaccination of traditional and religious leaders, marketers, health workers, the elderly (60 years and above), people with co-morbidities, teachers, journalists, state security personals and others.

However, a Health Ministry official told the Daily Observer last week that the draft roadmap “is one of several vaccine rollout scenarios under consideration, to see which is the most feasible.”

However, The World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) say there is no indication of a link between the vaccine and reports of blood clots.

The EMA said yesterday that it has been in contact with AstraZeneca, experts in blood disorders, and other health authorities — including in the UK where 11 million people have received a dose of the jab — to carry out a “rigorous analysis of all the data related to thromboembolic events” in the coming days, according to Euronews.

The EMA further said that the number of such events in vaccinated people “seems not to be higher than seen in the general population.”

Announcing its decision, Germany’s health ministry said it was a precautionary step based on a recommendation from the national medicines regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute.

“Following reports of cerebral vein thrombosis in connection with the vaccination in Germany and Europe, the Paul Ehrlich Institute considers further investigations to be necessary,” the health ministry said on Twitter. “The European Medicines Agency (EMA) will decide whether and how the new findings will affect the approval of the vaccine.”

Germany is an EU country that has so far administered the most doses of COVID-19 vaccines to its population. As of March 14, more than 6.5 million had received at least one dose of a vaccine and 2.8 million had been fully vaccinated, according to the Robert Koch Institute.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron told reporters that it has suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine as it waits on recommendations from EMA. Also, Italy’s medicines regulator, AIFA, said the suspension was a “precautionary and temporary measure” pending the EMA’s recommendation.

Ahead head of Germany decisions, Ireland and the Netherlands have both suspended the use of the AstraZeneca jab, saying the measure was a precaution and would be in place for two weeks.

Portugal, Denmark, Norway, Bulgaria, Iceland, and Slovenia have also temporarily halted inoculations with the vaccine, while the Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia have postponed the launch of their rollouts.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said there was no link between the jab and an increased risk of developing a clot, adding that countries should not stop the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said the body was investigating the reports.

“As soon as WHO has gained a full understanding of these events, the findings and any unlikely changes to current recommendations will be immediately communicated to the public,” he said. “As of today, there is no evidence that the incidents are caused by the vaccine and it is important that vaccination campaigns continue so that we can save lives and stem severe disease from the virus,” the WHO spokesman told the BBC.

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