April 15, 2021


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What you need to know about Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine: Is it safe?

As many people across Kenya and Africa at large get ready to receive Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine ( AZD1222) jabs, some have unfounded but still legitimate fears that can easily be allayed through simple research online.

Top on the minds of the masses are questions about the safety, efficacy, and side effects of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine being distributed to African countries under the global Covax scheme.

Several countries, among them Kenya, Ghana, DR Congo, Angola, Gambia and Ivory Coast, have already received their first batches of the AZD1222 vaccine.

Is it safe?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine has undergone review by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and consequently met WHO’s criteria for SAGE consideration.

WHO said that EMA thoroughly assessed the data on the quality, safety and efficacy of the vaccine and recommended granting a conditional marketing authorisation for people aged 18 and above.

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How efficacious is the vaccine?

The AZD1222 vaccine against COVID-19 has an efficacy of 63.09% against symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection, WHO says.

Longer dose intervals within the 8 to 12 weeks range are associated with greater vaccine efficacy.

Should pregnant women be vaccinated?

WHO says that pregnant women may receive the vaccine if the benefit of vaccinating a pregnant woman outweighs the potential vaccine risks.

However, there is little data available to assess vaccine safety in pregnancy.

Therefore, WHO says, pregnant women at high risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2, especially health workers or people who have comorbidities that add to their risk of severe disease, should be vaccinated in consultation with their health care providers.

Does it prevent infection and transmission?

According to the WHO, there is no substantive data available related to the impact of AZD1222 on transmission or viral shedding.

WHO recommends strengthening of public health measures, including masking, physical distancing, handwashing, respiratory and cough hygiene, avoiding crowds and ensuring good ventilation.

Who should be vaccinated first?

With the vaccine supplies limited, WHO recommends that health workers at higher risk of exposure and older people, including those aged 65 or older be prioritised.

Further, vaccination is recommended for persons with underlying conditions, comorbidities, that have been identified as increasing the risk of severe COVID-19, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and diabetes. 

What’s the recommended dosage?

The recommended dosage is two doses given intramuscularly (0.5ml each) with an interval of 8 to 12 weeks, according to the WHO who say additional research is needed to understand longer-term potential protection after a single dose. 

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