The Sunday Mail
Zimbabwe has not recorded severe side effects of Covid-19 vaccines since mass inoculation began nearly four months ago.
More than 571 000 people had received their first dose of the vaccine by Friday, while nearly 203 000 had been administered their second shot.
Zimbabwe is administering a basket of four vaccines – Sinopharm, Sinovac, Sputnik V and Covaxin – which were granted Emergency Use Authorisation by the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) following rigorous examination.
According to MCAZ – the statutory body responsible for monitoring the effects of medical drugs licensed for use locally – Zimbabwe has not recorded a single case of severe or potentially life-threatening side effects.
Health experts define an adverse effect as serious when it results in hospitalisation, extended stay in hospital, a significant reduction in functional capacity, or a life-threatening event like severe allergic reactions or death.
Chief Co-ordinator of the National Response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Dr Agnes Mahomva, confirmed that no adverse side effects have been reported.
“We are not aware of any serious adverse vaccine side effects like unusual blood clots or death that have been reported so far,” said Dr Mahomva.
Responding to questions from The Sunday Mail, MCAZ projects and public relations officer, Mr Shingai Gwatidzo, said only minor side effects, which are consistent with profiles obtained during development of vaccines, have been recorded.
“The authority has received reports of minor Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI) or side effects from the Covid-19 vaccines,” he said.
“The reports submitted are generally consistent with the side effects profile obtained from clinical studies that were conducted by the vaccine developers.
“These include pain at the injection site, headache and fever.
“The authority continues to encourage reporting of any side effects that may be experienced following Covid-19 vaccination.”
Several European countries temporarily ceased administering the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine amid concerns about its links to cases of blood clots.
Most, however, later resumed vaccinations with AstraZeneca, but often with limits to older age groups.
South Africa was forced to offload one million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine after trials had shown the shot offered minimal protection against mild to moderate illness caused by the dominant local coronavirus variant.
The Southern African nation has also suspended its use of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine citing concerns about blood clots in vaccine recipients.
Mr Gwatidzo said rigorous monitoring measures have been put in place to identify and isolate reported cases of severe side effects.
“As the national pharmacovigilance centre, MCAZ is responsible for safety monitoring of medicines, which means that after issuing Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA), MCAZ is responsible for processing adverse events following immunisation (side effects) reports that would be submitted.
“These reports are then taken through a process known as causality assessment whereby the side effects that are reported are analysed against the profiles of the suspected vaccines.
“Decisions are then made depending on the frequency and severity of the adverse events, with the overall aim of protecting public health.
“Adverse Events Following Immunisation forms have been adapted for Covid-19 vaccines and distributed through the Ministry of Health and Child Care Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI).”
He said MCAZ had trained healthcare providers on how to complete AEFI forms.
Mr Gwatidzo encouraged Zimbabweans to report any adverse events they may experience after receiving a vaccine.
MCAZ, he said, continues to monitor vaccine storage facilities to ensure that all the vials are safe and safeguard the integrity of the vaccines.
“The vaccines are being distributed through the Ministry of Health- EPI supply chain,” Mr Gwatidzo said.
“The programme’s cold chain facilities (refrigerators and cold rooms) have always been inspected by MCAZ.
“These have temperature monitoring mechanisms such as data loggers and alarms to notify of any temperature excursions.
“The refrigerators are inspected to determine that they always meet the temperature requirement (– 2,8 degrees Celsius) storage conditions.”
During the inspections, he said, the temperature probes are also inspected to see if they are calibrated and suitable for use.
Top German statistics website, Statista, ranks Zimbabwe fourth in Africa in terms of the percentage of the population that has been inoculated.
Data from the website shows that five in 100 people had been vaccinated in the country as at May 12, 2021.
Zimbabwe is ranked third in Southern Africa after the Seychelles and Mauritius, countries with smaller populations.
South Africa is ranked at number 28 on the continent and 10th in the region.
Government has decentralised vaccination centres to the suburbs in order to accelerate the pace of the vaccination campaign and reach the goal of herd immunity by year-end.
A recent study on health workers in Indonesia showed that Sinovac – one of the vaccines being used in Zimbabwe – has an efficacy rate of over 95 percent.
The study tracked 128 290 health workers in capital city, Jakarta, from January to March and found that the vaccine protected 98 percent of the workers from death and 96 percent from hospitalisation as soon as seven days after the second dose.
The report also shows that 94 percent of the workers had been protected against symptomatic infection.