After several countries suspended the AstraZeneca’s covid-19 vaccine, the minister of Health, Kailesh Jagutpal in Mauritius declared that they will keep using the vaccine based on the WHO’s decision that the vaccine is safe and that no links were established between the AstraZeneca vaccine and deaths from coagulation disorders. On the other hand several countries await clearance of the European Medicines Agency or from investigations on the matter.
Several countries have suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s covid-19 vaccine following reports of blood clots in some people who had been vaccinated. One of the first countries to have halted their rollout is Austria on the 7th of March. Similarly other countries suspended the AstraZeneca vaccine while an investigation is being carried out about a death from coagulation disorders and an illness from a pulmonary embolism.
Following Austria, countries like Denmark and Norway stopped their rollout. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxembourg also suspended the use of the batch singled out by Austria. The list goes on, Norway suspended the AstraZeneca vaccine on the 11th of March as a caution amidst the different reports about the side effects such blood coagulation. However, on the 13th of March, Norway registered three health workers all aged below 50, being treated for bleeding, blood clots, and a low blood platelet count. All three workers had recently received the AstraZeneca vaccine, however the officials are yet to find out whether the cases are linked to vaccines.
Iceland, Romania, Ireland, Slovenia, Cyprus, France, and Sweden, all suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine as they await clearance by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Italy also forms part of the list, having banned the vaccine until having more information on these side effects from the EMA.
The EMA security committee, which is headquartered in Amsterdam met on Tuesday 16th of March to assess new information that has come to light following the suspension of the vaccine in several countries. They are expected to come to a conclusion at a special meeting on Thursday said the director.
However in a videoconference, Emer Cooke, the executive Director of the EMA said the EMA remains “firmly convinced” of the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine against covid-19 despite the concerns of the several EU countries.
“We remain firmly convinced that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing Covid-19, with its associated risk of hospitalization and death, outweigh the risk of these side effects,” she said.
Emer Cooke, further explained that there is no link between the vaccine and the said side effects but that the situation is being taken “very seriously”.
“At this time, there is no indication that the vaccination caused these problems. They have not been mentioned in clinical trials and they are not listed as known or expected side effects,” she explained.
The World Health Organization (WHO) expert advisory group on immunization also met on Tuesday 16th of March to discuss the vaccine developed by the Swedish-British laboratory AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.
WHO stressed that there was no proven “connection” at this point between the vaccine and serious blood problems seen in people who have been vaccinated.
Mauritius maintains the use of the AstraZeneca’s covid-19 vaccine
Despite the suspension of AstraZeneca’s covid-19 vaccine in several countries, Mauritius maintained the use of the said vaccine. The minister of Health, Kailesh Jagutpal during an intervention on the daily National Communication Committee (NCC) conference, on the 13th of March, explained that based on the WHO’s decisions to continue the use of the said vaccine, Mauritius will continue its vaccination program as planned with the AstraZeneca’s covid-19 vaccine.
“Based on the WHO’s decision to keep using the vaccine, and the assurance that AstraZeneca’s covid-19 vaccine is a good vaccine, we will continue to use it in Mauritius.” said Kailesh Jagutpal.
Immunologist, Catherine Gaud, Senior Advisor at the ministry of health, who also intervened during the NCC conference, supported the use of the vaccine saying: “These are thrombovascular diseases that are alleged. Indeed there have been a number of vascular accidents of various locations in patients under the AstraZeneca vaccine. What has been important is to compare the rate of people who have had thrombovascular diseases with the rate of the general population. It turns out that in people vaccinated with AstraZeneca, there are no more, or rather less, thrombovascular diseases than in the general population. For scientists, this is neither more nor less than the normal rate. This is why the WHO believes that this is not a real alert.”
The vaccination campaign of Mauritius which started on the 26th of January was shortly halted after the island went into lockdown, but was resumed on Monday 15th of March. Nearly 5% of the Mauritian population have been vaccinated. Indeed, 66,512 vaccines have already been administered, declared the minister of Health, Kailesh Jugutpal on Tuesday, 16th of March.
The current vaccination program is essentially for holders of the Work Access Permit (WAP). 14 vaccination centers were set up across the island after the island went into lockdown to vaccinate the WAP holders. Regarding the number of doses administered on Tuesday, 16th of March, in the different centers set up on the island, the figure stands at 7,549. As for Monday, 15th of March, 7,566 people were inoculated.
The vaccination campaign for holders of the WAP will continue every day this week, except Sunday. And this, until the 25th of March.