Nigeria: Govt Allays Fears Over Astrazeneca Covid-19 Vaccine Despite Global Concerns

16 March 2021

Despite concerns over reported negative effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine by some countries in Europe, the federal government yesterday assured Nigerians of its safety.

It said none of reports on the side effects of the vaccine such as blood clotting has so far been reported in the country.

The number of countries that have suspended AstraZeneca vaccine increased yesterday with France, Germany, Spain and Italy joining the long list.

But the World Health Organisation (WHO) advised countries using the vaccine to continue with its rollout.

The federal government also said that none of the over 8,000 Nigerians that had been administered with the vaccine, including President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has reported any adverse effect since the vaccination began last week.

Also as part of the support being received from the private sector for the acquisition of COVID-19 vaccine, the federal government said the coalition, under the auspices of CACOVID, had promised to contribute up to N10 billion for the purchase of the vaccine.

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, at the media briefing by the Presidential Taskforce on the Control COVI-19 yesterday in Abuja, said the Federal Ministry of Health was impressed by the cooperation received from Nigerians since the commencement of the vaccination.

Reacting to reports of alleged blood clotting-after effects of AstraZeneca vaccine by some European countries, Ehanire said: "Since the rollout on Friday, March 5, vaccination has been uneventful and no adverse health events have been recorded in Nigeria.

"I am pleased to say that their excellencies, the president and vice president, as well as strategic leaders who have taken the vaccine along with frontline healthcare workers, are all doing very well."

He added that the situation has helped to demonstrate to citizens that the vaccine is safe.

"I assure everyone that the vaccine is safe. NAFDAC is collaborating with WHO, manufacturers and partners to evaluate other vaccines and also add to our portfolio of vaccines," he added.

The Executive Director of National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, said over 8,000 Nigerians had been vaccinated without any single report of serious adverse effect.

Shuaib said: "As part of COVID-19 vaccine launch, which commenced last week across the country, over 8,000 Nigerians have been immunised so far. We have not received any official report of serious adverse effects from any of those who have been vaccinated."

On the state of deployment of the 3.94 million doses, Shuaib said so far, all the states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory, had been supplied with doses of the vaccine except Kogi State, which is yet to repair its storage facility damaged during the EndSARS protests.

Ehanire had earlier given an update on the government's efforts at mobilising funds from various sources to support the acquisition of COVID-19 vaccines.

He said members of CACOVID had pledged to provide over N10 billion.

Out of this amount, a mobile telephone network provider, Glo, has given N350 million while another mobile telephone firm, the MTN, has pledged to provide millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccine through the African Union-brokered facility.

In his update, the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said the agency would commence a survey in Sokoto, Kano and the FCT to determine the level of COVID-19 infection in those areas.

Meanwhile, the number of countries that have suspended the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine increased yesterday with France, Germany, Spain and Italy joining the long list.

France President, Mr. Emmanuel Macron, said the country was suspending the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine pending a review of its safety by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

"The decision has been made to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine as a precaution, hoping that we can resume it quickly if the judgment of the EMA allows it," Macron told a press conference, adding that an announcement by the EMA was expected today.

In Germany, the vaccine was also halted after reported blood clotting incidents in Europe.

In Spain, Minister of Health, Ms. Carolina Darias, said the country would suspend the use of the vaccine for at least a fortnight over blood clot fears.

"We have decided to temporarily suspend (use of the AstraZeneca vaccine) as a precaution for at least the next two weeks," Darias told reporters.

She said the decision would remain in place until the EMA "analyses the recent incidences of blood clots, notably over the weekend."

In Italy, Minister of Health, Mr. Roberto Speranza, said the country had joined other European nations in blocking the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford.

The decision by Italian medicines agency, AIFA, came after talks between Speranza and the ministers in Germany, France and Spain.

Over 12 European countries have so far suspended the usage of the shot, which was jointly developed with the University of Oxford, after reported blood clotting incidents in Europe.

However, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, Mr. Andrew Pollard, yesterday said there was no link between the jab it developed and blood clotting after several countries suspended its use.

Pollard said there was "very reassuring evidence that there is no increase in a blood clot phenomenon here in the UK, where most of the doses in Europe been given so far."

The World Health Organisation (WHO) also called on countries using AstraZeneca vaccine to continue with its rollout.

"We do not want people to panic and we would, for the time being, we recommend that countries continue vaccinating with AstraZeneca," WHO's Chief Scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, told a press briefing.

"WHO's advisory committee on vaccine safety has been reviewing the available data, is in close contact with the EMA, and will meet tomorrow," WHO's Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told yesterday's briefing.

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