Covid-19 vaccines are safe — Sekatle

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Limpho Sello

THE five people who died in Leribe last month after taking the Johnson&Johnson Covid-19 vaccine were not killed by the jab, Health Minister Semano Sekatle said yesterday.

Mr Sekatle told the media in Maseru yesterday that an enquiry launched last month into the causes of the deaths had revealed that the deceased died of other causes and not the vaccines.

The inquiry was in response to widespread reports that the five had died after receiving Covid-19 vaccines. The received the vaccines as part of the government’s ongoing mass vaccination programme to fight the deadly pandemic which has so far infected 14 395 people in Lesotho and killed 403.

At the time, Leribe District Administrator, Mohlophehi Mohobelo, told this publication that five people had died allegedly after being jabbed with the Covid-19 vaccines. He however, said he could not say with certainty if the vaccines were the actual cause of the deaths. He said they would only know for sure after receiving the post-mortem results.

“We expect the post-mortem results today (yesterday),” Mr Mohobelo said, adding, “only then will we able to know what actually caused the deaths”.

However, social media has been awash with reports that the five died from complications arising from being vaccinated. The country began its mass vaccination programme in March this year after receiving 36 000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine donated by France. Another 36 000 doses were received in June enabling the government to administer the second and final jab to all those who had been vaccinated in March.

These included essential workers such as health and media practitioners. The health ministry also vaccinated the elderly and those with life-threatening conditions like HIV and AIDS and tuberculosis.

The second phase of the programme was launched last month in Leribe following the delivery of Johnson&Johnson vaccines.

And yesterday Minister Sekatle allayed fears that had been fueled by social media reports that the five had died from the jab.

Speaking to during a press conference yesterday, Mr Sekatle the investigations into the causes of the deaths had revealed that four of the deceased died from other preexisting conditions while one died from shock.

Mr Sekatle therefore said “there was nothing wrong” with the Johnson&Johnson vaccine.

“It is a vaccine that can be used to boost immunity and decreases the Covid-19 related deaths,” Mr Sekatle said.

“There was nothing wrong with the Covid-19 vaccination programme as well as the health centres where the deceased got their injections.

“Three of the deceased were each found to have had comorbidities like heart problem, diabetes, HIV and Tuberculosis (TB). The fourth one died from shock which is a rare case. The fifth person died from high blood pressure, heart disease and had not been adhering to prescribed medication.”

Mr Sekatle said the investigations were carried out by two groups of epidemiological and public health experts. The investigation was supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“The first group of experts visited the deceased’s homes to find out their health condition and the diseases they were suffering from before the vaccination. They also investigated the health centres at which the deceased were vaccinated as well as following up on other people who were vaccinated on the same day.

“The second group of experts was composed of personnel from WHO and the African Union (AU) among others. This group took samples which were taken to independent laboratories in South Africa.”

The team was also assisted by an Australian expert on allergies.

Lesotho has used the same regime of vaccines as Zambia and Tanzania and has so far administered over 250 000 doses but has not recorded cases of severe side-effects, he said.

Mr Sekatle therefore said given the findings, Lesotho would continue rolling-out the Johnson&Johnson vaccine.

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