Use the facts to debate the vaccine bad talkTuesday, April 20, 2021
There was a letter published in the Jamaica Observer recently that I consider to be very misleading. It was titled 'Why are we still using AstraZeneca?' and written by Marie Henry, who questioned the use of this vaccine in Jamaica.
AstraZeneca and other COVID-19 vaccines currently being used were approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), the established regulatory bodies in various countries, after passing rigorous health, safety and efficacy tests. AstraZeneca trials used more participants than most of the other vaccines now available. AstraZeneca contains a particle which trains the body to build up immunity against coronavirus viral infection. There have been extremely rare cases of blood clots reported, mainly in Europe, which is close to zero per cent of the millions of doses manufactured and administered.
Although no direct link to the vaccine was found, some groups appear to be more at risk of developing clots: younger women, possibly with low iron levels, which is essential for the production of red blood cells.
As an extra precaution, a few countries suspended the use of the vaccine, while many countries still use it, some with restrictions in younger age groups and women. It is untrue that Canada banned use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Canada, like Jamaica and countries outside Europe, sources AstraZeneca from India under the COVISHIELD brand. In Europe, where most clots occurred, the AstraZeneca (Oxford) brand is made there. AstraZeneca is also manufactured in the USA, but not yet approved for use there, since other brands are available. To date there has been one case of blood clot in Canada from over 12 million doses, and 30 cases in Europe from over 30 million doses administered. The risk of clotting from a COVID-19 vaccine is significantly less than the risk in newborns, pregnant women, and those taking birth control pills.
The efficacy rate of COVID-19 vaccines vary between 70 per cent and 95 per cent, and there is always a chance that a vaccinated person can contract the virus — at least until a high level of herd immunity is achieved. Immunity takes time and the second dose, administered months after, is required for optimal efficacy. Researchers believe that vaccination may help to reduce symptoms and the need for hospitalisation.
Israel, which leads the world in terms of percentage of population vaccinated, is now seeing a significant decline in symptomatic COVID-19 cases (94 per cent to be exact). Israel recently removed mask mandates in public spaces and fully reopened schools. The top three vaccines available — Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca — are all considered effective and safe, according to multiple regulatory bodies, including the WHO.
Researchers are now studying the possibility of mixing vaccines for the second dose, which can help to increase vaccine supplies globally. Jamaica must ramp up its vaccination efforts and public relations to ease fears. The important thing now is to get most of the population vaccinated. It is the only way we can see life returning to normal.
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