Kenya: Confusion Over Covid-19 Jab Effects as Health Officials Read From Different Scripts

In what played out as a theatre of confusion during a media engagement between the government and journalists on Wednesday, there appeared to be a difference of opinion over whether a Kenyan had died or not after receiving the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine jab.

At first, Dr Peter Mbwiiri Ikamati, the deputy director of the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB), said that the agency was investigating a death that had occurred after a Kenyan received the vaccine dose, adding that a total of 279 people have been affected adversely after receiving the jab. He further said that seven of these adverse reactions were severe.

However, moments later, Dr Collins Taabu - head of the National Vaccines and Immunisation Programme - refuted this, saying there was no linkage and that it is yet to be established if a death was caused by the vaccine.

Shortly after, Dr Ikamati backtracked on his earlier statement, saying his update was based on an error and that what was actually reported was a woman's miscarriage. He said the confusion arose from misreporting on the CHANJO immunisation system.

Experts said that although they did not have enough information for now, the miscarriage reported does not mean it was caused by the vaccine.

"So long as you are vaccinated, whatever happens to you afterwards is monitored, investigated, and reported. That is why we are following up this case," said Dr Ikamati.

"It does not mean the miscarriage was because of the vaccine. It might have happened anyway without any links to the vaccine," he added.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that pregnant women should receive the vaccine only if the benefit of vaccination outweighs the potential risks, such as if they are health workers at high risk of exposure or have comorbidities that place them in a high-risk group for severe Covid-19.

Any medical event occurring after immunisation can be classified as an adverse event following immunisation whether the event has any causal relationship to getting the immunisation or not.

These events can range from mild to severe and from common to very rare. Dr Tabu explained that they may occur as a result of the immunisation, a causal relationship between the event and vaccination, or occur by chance after getting the jab.

"By you getting the vaccine today it doesn't take away chances of getting other adverse events. For example, if you are vaccinated today and a mosquito bites you in the evening, it does not mean that the effects you are experiencing from the bite were caused by the vaccine," said Dr Tabu.

No blood clots

The Ministry has also said that so far, the pharmacovigilance team has not recorded any rare cases of blood clots as is being reported in Europe.

"We have not recorded any cases of severe reaction or death to the vaccine. We have also not recorded any cases of blood clots," said Dr Tabu.

Of the people who have reported adverse reactions to the vaccine, seven are being investigated after individuals either experienced prolonged side effects or raised concerns about the reactions they had.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story had indicated that Health officials were investigating a death. The ministry has issued an update to Nation.Africa indicating that there was in fact no death and that what it is investigating is a miscarriage.

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