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AstraZeneca vaccine: Benefits outweighs risks, says WHO

By Hassan Zaggi

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Africa,  has disclosed that its Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine safety is carefully assessing the reports on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to gain full understanding of the issues surrounding its safety and will communicate its findings soon.
This is even as close to 7 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the  African continent.
It however, said that “based on what is currently known, WHO considers that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh its risks and recommends that vaccinations continue.”
It would be recalled that few countries in Africa have halted or postponed their use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, following the suspension of the vaccine by some countries in Europe.
This precautionary measure is based on reports of rare blood coagulation disorders in people who had received the vaccine. The suspension is regarding one specific batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has not been distributed to Africa.
In a virtual media briefing yesterday facilitated by APO Group., the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, noted that: “Countries in the region are clocking an impressive vaccination pace, but we must ensure this speed doesn’t slow down to a crawl.
“Additional supplies are urgently required to narrow the gap between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.”
According to Moeti: “Although Africa received vaccines late and in limited quantities, a lot of ground has been covered in a short space of time.
“This is due to the continent’s vast experience in mass vaccination campaigns and the determination of its leaders and people to effectively curb COVID-19.
“Compared with countries in other regions that accessed vaccines much earlier, the initial rollout phase in some African countries has reached a far higher number of people.”
Just two weeks after receiving COVAX-funded AstraZeneca vaccines, Ghana has administered more than 420 000 doses and covered over 60% of the targeted population in the first phase in the Greater Accra region – the hardest hit by the pandemic. In the first nine days, it is estimated the country delivered doses to around 90% of health workers.
In Morocco, more than 5.6 million vaccinations have taken place in the past seven weeks, while in Angola, vaccines have reached over 49 000 people, including more than 28 000 health workers in the past week.
Thirty eight African countries have so far received more than 25 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines and 30 have started vaccination campaigns.
Through the COVAX initiative – which is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organization (WHO) in partnership with UNICEF – more than 16 million vaccine doses have so far been shipped to 27 countries.

Written by ExpressDay

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