Lesotho will continue using AstraZeneca vaccine: Sekatle
LESOTHO will continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine to fight Covid-19 because there is no evidence that it has dangerous side effects as alleged by some European countries, Health Minister Semano Sekatle has said.
His remarks come against the backdrop of reports that several European countries had suspended the vaccine over fears that it produced potentially fatal blood clots in some patients.
Italy, Spain, Portugal, Slovenia and Cyprus all suspended the use of the vaccine this week. Last week, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Bulgaria also suspended the use of the vaccine.
Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Luxembourg have suspended some batches of the AstraZeneca vaccine as well.
However, the AstraZeneca website has downplayed fears over the vaccine safety, saying they had received only 37 reports of blood clots out of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the European Union and Britain. Both the company and the World Health Organisation (WHO) insist there is no evidence the clots were caused by the vaccine.
Last night, Mr Sekatle said they would continue administering the vaccine because “there was no tangible evidence that it caused blood clots or any other side effects”.
“We only rely on evidence and advice from medical experts and not media reports. So far, there is no evidence of the alleged side effects including blood clots. Even those who received the vaccine here have not reported any side effects. Therefore, we will continue using the vaccine,” Mr Sekatle said in an interview with the Lesotho Times last night.
His sentiments were echoed by European Union Ambassador to Lesotho, Christian Manahl, who said the European Medical Agency was of the view that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh its potential risks.
“Millions of people have already been vaccinated with AstraZeneca but very, very few have suffered from complications. There is not yet concluding evidence that these complications were due to the vaccination. It is established that AstraZeneca reduces the risk of severe illness in Covid-19 infections and this means it reduces the risk of people dying or needing to be hospitalised.
“There seem to be indications from a study in South Africa that AstraZeneca is only partly effective in preventing an infection but the fact that it reduces the seriousness of the illness and the risk of death clearly demonstrates its benefits.
“We are in a crisis situation where at least 2, 7 million people have died from Covid-19 worldwide, more than 50 000 in South Africa alone and there have been more than 300 confirmed Covid-19 related deaths in Lesotho. Any vaccine or medicine that can reduce the death toll of this terrible pandemic should be put to good use. I’ll be happy to take the AstraZeneca jab myself as soon as I get an opportunity,” Dr Manahl said in an interview with this publication yesterday.
Lesotho launched its Covid-19 vaccination programme in Morija last week. King Letsie III and Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro were among several government leaders who received the AstraZeneca jab. The programme was launched after the government received a consignment of 36 000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The delivery was despite reports in neighbouring South Africa that the AstraZeneca vaccine had been found to be ineffective against the South African strain of the virus known as B.1.351 or 501.V2.