Vaccines: Zimbabwe must stick to working formula

by | Jun 8, 2021 | COVID 19, International, Local News | 0 comments

Hosiah Muviringi

Zimbabwe has been very cautious when it comes to the selection of vaccines for its population, due to proven inherent side effects in other vaccines.

All African Union member States, through the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), which was set up in November 2020 under the AU Chairmanship of South African President H.E Cyril Ramaphosa, signed a historical Covid-19 vaccine procurement agreement on March 28 2021, with Johnson and Johnson for the supply of 220 million doses of the single-shot vaccine.

South Africa became the first African country to adopt the then unproven Johnson and Johnson vaccine for a trial on its people.

The single-shot vaccine, which is being produced in South Africa at a massive facility in Port Elizabeth has been touted as an African vaccine breakthrough as Africa will be able to manufacture and dispense its own vaccines inland.

On April 13, 2021, United States health regulators halted the rollout of the Johnson and Johnson Covid-19 vaccines after overwhelming evidence of blood clot cases in those who had been vaccinated.

Then, Johnson and Johnson announced that it was moving to investigate the cases alongside US health investigators.

To date no satisfactory assurance is available for the safety of the vaccine in its users.

On April 14, 2021, South African following US, had to suspend the use of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine until the “vaccine is sufficiently interrogated.”
“We have determined to voluntarily suspend our rollout until the causal relationship between the development of clots and the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is sufficiently interrogated,” then said South African Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.

To understand why the Zimbabwean authorities may not be in a hurry to receive the vaccine, we need to listen to the joint statement issued by the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in recommending the suspension.

“FDA will review that analysis as it also investigates these cases. Until that process is complete, we are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of abundance of caution.
This is important, in part, to ensure that the healthcare provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan for proper recognition and management die to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot,” the agencies said in a statement.

As it stands, no convincing assurance has been made available that such adverse effects emanating from the use of the vaccine have been rectified as yet.

As such, Zimbabwe may not be keen to risk adverse conditions if they happen to manifest in vaccine recipients, especially during a successful vaccine rollout process.

It is however disheartening that despite the untested nature of the vaccine, South Africa put the economics of producing and supplying the vaccine ahead of the safety of African populations.

Yes, the South African government keeps an interest in the economic being of its nation, revenue collection and employment creation etc., thus it would be understandable that negotiations by the AU Chairperson were inclined towards the business side of the deal.

Yet it is equally culpable when it comes to the safety and well being of African populations.

Before the Johnson and Johnson debacle, South Africa had been driven into fronting yet another untested vaccine, AstraZeneca, which they also had to abandon immediately due to negligible efficacy against the local Covid-19 variant.

The Zimbabwean authorities have instead chosen to tread carefully when it comes to vaccine selection. They understand that a simple failure of a vaccine could turn out worse than a plague due to the mass rollout nature of the vaccination program.

In February 2021, there were reports that the Zimbabwean government politely turned down a similar omnibus offer of Covid-19 vaccines by the British government through the Covax facility.

Ironically, these two struggling vaccines, AstraZeneca, Johnson and Johnson, as well as Pfizer were going to be part of the vaccine basket under the World Health Organisation (WHO) coordinated Covax facility.

In a statement after British Ambassador Melanie Robinson had visited Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, purportedly to wheedle him into signing up to the facility, Presidential Spokesman George Charamba described the British offer as “vacuous.”

Zimbabwe`s thorough approach to the vaccine issue, has empowered it to stick to its technical assessments despite pressures which some may try to subtly apply.

This will turn out today, to those seeking the truth that the government of Zimbabwe has always and continues to act in the best interest of its people.

It is without a doubt that this latest move is guided and driven by the need to protect its citizens from defective health products.

To date Zimbabwe made has continued to earn the country plaudits as the chosen vaccines, Sinopharm and Sinovac, have not disappointed.

With over 600 million doses administered to date, not a single adverse reaction has been recorded, attesting to the safety of the vaccines.

Many African nationals are now daily visitors to Zimbabwe in what has become popularly known as vaccine tourism.

With such a record, who would want to take a risk and experiment with other experimental drugs?