- India has donated 20 000 doses of AstraZeneca to Eswatini
- Vaccine undergoing blood clot investigations
Mbabane: The Kingdom of Eswatini will carry on administering the controversial AstraZeneca despite an ongoing investigation into cases of blood clots that have prompted several European countries to abruptly halt the use of the shot.
The European Medicines Agency said 30 cases of “thromboembolic events” or blood clots had been reported among 5 million people who had received the jab in Europe so far. Several European countries have either suspended inoculations with the AstraZeneca vaccine as a precautionary measure or banned the use of a specific batch after blood clots formed in some people who had received the jab.
Denmark, Norway and Iceland announced that they were temporarily halting all AstraZeneca vaccinations to investigate the cases. Italy followed Austria, Estonia, Latvia, Luxembourg and Lithuania in banning inoculations with one particular batch of 1m doses that was sent to 17 countries.
Against this backdrop, Eswatini on Thursday, March 11 received a batch of 20 000 doses of the same vaccine as a donation from the Republic of India and was still expecting more doses.
When receiving the doses that shocked the members of the public regarding its quantity and its controversy, the Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi said a majority of health workers have already registered for vaccination and the vaccination exercise was expected to start the following week. The health workers will include community care givers; and these will be followed by the elderly who have co-morbidities and then frontline workers and the rest of the nation.”
Speaking on behalf of some health workers, Bheki Mamba, the President of the Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (SWADNU) told the online publication, Swaziland News that as nurses, they were strongly opposed to government’s plans to vaccinate them with the donated low efficacy AstraZeneca vaccines.
“We are totally against government’s plans to vaccinate us with this AstraZeneca low efficacy vaccines, we rather wait for the Johnson and Johnson to arrive in June because these AstraZeneca vaccines that were rejected in South Africa cannot prevent the virus that is circulating in the country.
“Government must prepare a reasonable budget and buy COVID-19 vaccines instead of relying on donations” said the Nurses Union President.
Nonetheless, India began its COVID immunisation drive with health and frontline workers on January 16. The current phase, which began on March 1, is aimed at people who are 60 years of age or above and those with comorbidities in the 45-59 age group.
India has decided to continue with the interval of 4-6 weeks for the administration of the two doses of the Covishield vaccine, despite new evidence suggesting better efficacy when the second booster shot is given after 8-12 weeks.
Countries such as the UK and Canada that are also using the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca Oxford have extended the interval between the two doses to as long as four months. Serum Institute of India manufactures this vaccine in India and exports it to many markets.
A new study that was published in the medical journal Lancet on March 6 has shown that a longer interval between the doses provided a higher efficacy (as much as 90 percent) compared with a six-week gap. Those vaccinated are protected against the symptomatic Covid-19 despite the longer dosing interval.
The World Health Organization recommends an interval of six weeks between the shots.
Oxford-AstraZeneca-made Covishield is based on the viral vector platform. The vaccine is made by genetically engineering adenovirus that normally infects chimpanzees. It uses double-stranded DNA. Bharat Biotech-made Covaxin is based on an inactivated.
The Kingdom of Eswatini had earlier on halted the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after it was proven to be ineffective against the COVID-19 variant which was first discovered in South Africa. However, Eswatini took a U-turn on AstraZeneca vaccine after the World Health Organization (WHO) advised that the vaccine can be used in the Kingdom.
Donated batch worth about E653 600
The 20 000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines donated by the Republic of India to Eswatini have costed the government of that country at least ₹160 (E653 600). This is according to the fact that on or around March 11, the government of India was reported to have renegotiated the price at which it procures Covishield, made by Serum Institute of India (SII), to about ₹160 per dose for the current phase of the vaccination programme, from ₹210 previously, inclusive of taxes.
This donation raised eyebrows among the masses of Emaswati as the Acting Prime Minister Themba Nhlanganiso Masuku had announced to the nation that the government had set apart E200 million for securing the COVID-19 vaccines.