Tue | May 11, 2021

Letter of the Day | Let’s keep the vaccination ball rolling

Published:Wednesday | April 21, 2021 | 12:16 AM


There are some who question the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, in particular AstraZeneca, the one being used in Jamaica. These vaccines were approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) and regulatory bodies in various countries, after passing rigorous health, safety and efficacy tests. The trials for AstraZeneca used more participants than most of the other vaccines now available. AstraZeneca contains a particle from a weakened cold virus which trains the body to build up immunity against COVID-19 viral infection.

There have been extremely rare cases of blood clot reported, mainly in Europe, which is close to zero per cent of the millions of doses administered. The top three vaccines available, Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, are all considered safe and effective, according to multiple regulatory bodies, including the WHO.

Although no direct link to the vaccine was found, some groups appear to be at greater risk of developing clots.

As an extra precaution, a few countries suspended the use of the vaccine, while many countries still use it, some with restrictions in younger age groups. Canada, like Jamaica (and countries outside Europe), source AstraZeneca from India under the Covishield brand; in Europe where most clots occurred, the AstraZeneca brand made in the United Kingdom is used.

AstraZeneca is also manufactured in the United States of America, but not yet approved for use there. To date, there was one case of blood clot in Canada, from over 12 million doses, and 30 cases in Europe, from over 30 million doses. The risk of clotting from a COVID-19 vaccine is significantly lower than the risk in newborns, pregnant women and those taking birth control pills; the risk is also high in COVID-19 patients.

The efficacy rate of COVID-19 vaccines vary between 70-95 per cent. There is always a slim chance that a vaccinated person can contract the virus, at least until a high level of herd immunity is achieved. Even so, it is believed that vaccination may help to reduce symptoms and the need for hospitalisation. Immunity takes time, and the second dose is required for optimal efficacy. Israel, which leads the world in terms of the percentage of population vaccinated, is now seeing a 94 per cent decline in symptomatic COVID-19 cases and they’ve now removed the mask mandated in public spaces, and schools are fully reopened. Researchers are also studying the efficacy of mixing vaccines for the second dose, which may help to increase vaccine supplies globally. Jamaica must ramp up its vaccination efforts, as it lags behind other Caribbean nations. We must also ease fears with effective public relations, based on information and facts, to dispel rumours. It is important to get most of the adult population vaccinated, as this is the quickest and safest way life can return to normal.

P. Chin