EA vaccine rollout goes on amid adverse reactions across Europe

Tuesday March 23 2021
Covid-19 vaccine.

A Kenyan health worker administers the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to colleagues to help fight coronavirus at the Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi on March 5, 2021. PHOTO | FILE

By Ange Iliza

The rollout of the vaccination programme against Covid-19 in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda continues apace amid clotting concerns elsewhere.

The World Health Organisation confirmed on March 15 that several European countries had suspended the rollout of the AstraZeneca jab — the same one in Kenya and Rwanda — as a precaution after reports emerged that it had caused clotting in some recipients.

In Kenya and Rwanda around 50,000 and 300,000 people, respectively, had been vaccinated with AstraZeneca, by last week with no major health issues recorded in either country.

The WHO said it was aware of blood clot concerns linked to “a specific batch” of AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine, but maintained no one has died from any coronavirus vaccine.

Ongoing surveillance

On March 16, officials of WHO and the European Union’s European Medicines Agency (EMA) met on the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine after several more countries suspended its use.


Following the meeting, the head of EMA said there is “no indication” that AstraZeneca vaccines are the cause of blood clots reported in some shot recipients. He said he was “firmly convinced” the benefits of the AstraZeneca shot outweigh risks, but evaluation is ongoing.

Germany, France, Italy and Spain were among those to temporarily halt use of the shot, following reports of blood clots in people who received the vaccine from two batches produced in Europe.

“This does not necessarily mean these events are linked to vaccination, but it is routine practice to investigate them, and it shows that the surveillance system works and that effective controls are in place,” head of WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Dr Mariângela Simão, a WHO Assistant Secretary-General, said the agency is working very closely with the European Union’s European Medicines Agency, and with national regulatory authorities in Europe and other regions, in assessing the adverse effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine and all other vaccines.

WHO has not received reports about “thrombo-embolic events” in other parts of the world, added Dr Simão.

In the region, Rwanda President, Paul Kagame was the first leader to be vaccinated. Rwanda has received 100,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 240,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, and was the first East African country to vaccinate those most at risk.

Kenya and Uganda only have the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in India Uganda received the first batch of 864,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from Covax on March 5, and has started vaccinating its nationals.

Uganda has also made a direct purchase of 18 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India with the first batch of 400,000 doses expected this month.