- More countries suspend AstraZeneca vaccine
- DHS says rollout will still continue
- Nurses’ union to adopt position
FRANCISTOWN: Despite the suspension and ban of use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine mainly in Europe, Botswana says that there is no reason that compels stopping the rollout plan for the vaccine when it arrives.
Director of Health Services (DHS) in the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW), Dr Malebogo Kebabonye, views the suspension of the vaccine as a precaution after some recipients showed severe side effects.
International media has been awash with reports that some recipients of the vaccine have shown several side effects that include blood clots while deaths have also occurred.
Countries that have already suspended the vaccine include Denmark, Iceland, Bulgaria Norway and Thailand. Neighbouring South Africa long paused rollout of the shots after preliminary data showed that it offers minimal protection against a COVID-19 variant that was detected in that country in December last year.
Responding to The Botswana Gazette about the unsettling reports, Kebabonye said Botswana has no reason to alter its current rollout plan. “It is important to note that it is expected that different populations react differently to vaccines, and as such events are investigated and action taken on merits based on the threshold of occurrence known,” she said.
However, Kebabonye noted that Botswana has already put in place mechanisms that allow for continual monitoring of vaccine safety and to follow emerging literature and scientific evidence.
The Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Edwin Dikoloti, also recently told Parliament that the rollout of AstraZeneca doses would continue despite efficacy of the vaccine being questioned in South Africa. “Our intended purpose outcome is well covered by what AstraZeneca offers,” he said when answering an MP’s question. “The recommendation we have received from the World Health Organisation (WHO), and as well as (our) scientists is that we can go ahead and use the vaccine.”
Botswana is expected to receive its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines that include the AstraZeneca before this month end.
Meanwhile, the Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) was still to take a position on issues surrounding AstraZeneca vaccines at the time of going to press. “We are still discussing the issue,” said Obonolo Rahube in an interview. “For now we do not have a position.”