Nigeria’s health authorities Thursday evening through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) moved quickly to douse growing anxiety around the suspension of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, produced in partnership with Oxford.
Early Thursday, four European countries citing blood clotting difficulties and a suspected death arising from the usage of the vaccine, suspended its use.
In a statement signed by Mohammed Ohitoto, the head of its public relations unit, the NPHCDA said “while we await the outcome of the investigations, it is important to clearly state that Nigeria did not receive any doses from the batch of vaccines which is at issue,” implying that the vaccines are in batches.
While the agency stated the batch in question as ABV5300, it, however, did not state that of Nigeria.
The agency emphasised the Nigerian government’s confidence in the vaccine, saying the government will not discontinue its use.
“We are satisfied that the clinical evidence indicates the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to be safe and effective. Our assessment is in line with countries such as Spain and the UK who have indicated that they will continue to administer the vaccine, because it remains an important tool to protect against COVID-19.”
Nigeria took delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine in early March and has since begun administration to prioritised groups.
Denmark, Iceland and Norway have suspended the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as a precaution amid reports of blood clotting in some people who have received it.
The Danish health authority said that there was a reported death in the country but that “at present, it cannot be concluded whether there is a link between the vaccine and the blood clots.”
Use of the vaccine will be suspended until further notice, the health authority said on Thursday, but the decision will be reviewed in two weeks’ time.
Shortly after the Danish announcement, Iceland followed suit. Hours later, the Norwegian health authority also said they too would suspend vaccinations after the report from Denmark.
This comes after Austria suspended a batch of the vaccines following the death of a woman due to multiple blood clots and the hospitalisation of another person with a blockage in the arteries of the lungs.
France and the UK have, however, ruled out the following suit for now, stressing the suspension in other countries “is a precautionary measure”.
The European Medicines Agency said it was reviewing the incidents as well as all other “conditions related to blood clots” but a preliminary review suggested there was no “specific issue” with the batch.
As of Tuesday, the medicines regulator said, there were 22 cases of blood clotting reported among the three million people vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine in the European Economic Area.
“We are in the middle of the largest and most important vaccination rollout in Danish history. And right now we need all the vaccines we can get. Therefore, putting one of the vaccines on pause is not an easy decision,” said Søren Brostrøm, Director General of the Danish Health Authority.
“But precisely because we vaccinate so many, we also need to respond with timely care when there is knowledge of possible serious side effects. We need to clarify this before we can continue to use the vaccine from AstraZeneca.”
The change means that people who have received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Denmark will have to wait before they receive the second dose, the health authority said.
Frontline health staff aged 65 or over will continue to receive vaccination appointments with one of the other two vaccines, they specified.
The authority said they are not opting out of the AstraZeneca vaccine but just putting it on hold.
“There is good evidence that the vaccine is both safe and effective,” Brostrøm said.
A senior official at the National Institute of Public Health, Geir Bukholm, told reporters on Thursday afternoon: “We are taking a break in Norway from vaccination with AstraZeneca.”
“We are waiting for information to see if there is a link between the vaccination and this case of blood clots.
“It is the precautionary principle,” Bukholm said, stressing that no link had yet been established between the Anglo-Swedish laboratory’s vaccine and the cases of thrombosis, including one fatality, reported in Denmark.
In a statement issued in reaction to the Danish announcement, Britain’s government said “people should still go and get their COVID-19 vaccine when asked to do so.”
“It has not been confirmed that the report of a blood clot, in Denmark, was caused by the COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca,” Dr Phil Bryan, Safety Lead at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, said.
France’s Health Minister, Olivier Véran, told a press conference late afternoon that according to the nation’s High Authority for Health, “there is no reason to suspend vaccinations with AstraZeneca.”
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