The Democratic Republic of Congo suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but could resume the planned vaccination programme if investigations reveal that the jab is still safe for use, a minister said on Monday.
The launch of the AstraZeneca jab was initially set for March 15 but the government postponed the launch indefinitely.
Health Minister Eteni Longondo said they suspended the use of the jab as a precaution, following its suspension by a number of European countries over concerns that some people who had received it experienced blood clots.
DR Congo has already received 1.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
When questioned about the safety of the vaccine, Dr Longondo said, “the cause and effect relationship between the AstraZeneca vaccine and the occurrence of blood coagulation disorders is not formally proven yet.”
However, “Congolese experts at the Ministry of Health, those of the technical secretariat of response against Covid and of the advisory group for vaccination reaffirmed that vaccination is an important pillar of the response, and as such, it remains the best axis of prevention.”
Dr Eteni Longondo adds that many countries are still using the AstraZeneca vaccine and have not reported any case of blood clotting after its use.
But, “as a precautionary measure, it has been decided to postpone the date for the launch of vaccination in the DRC. The new date will be announced as soon as the results of the investigations already underway are available.”
Earlier, the National Assembly questioned the safety of the vaccine after several European countries suspended its use.
Dr Longondo also said that vaccination is voluntary and priority will be given to medical and social workers, people with comorbidities such as chronic kidney disease, hypertension and diabetes, and people aged over 55, who represent six percent of the population.