The Mozambican government, through the Ministry of Health, must explain to Mozambicans why it proceeded with the administration of the vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India, after failing to take a satisfactory position on the controversies surrounding the AstraZeneca vaccine.
In a process that will exclude children under 15 and pregnant women, the country expects to vaccinate 17 million people by 2022. So far, 200,000 vaccines have been received from China, 384,000 from the Covax initiative and a futher 100,000 made available by India.
The controversial vaccine – manufactured by the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical conglomerate, AstraZeneca – has been suspended in some countries, while in others a choice was made to administer it to people aged 60 or more, as it is considered to be effective and without side effects in people of that age group.
In March peaking on the AstraZeneca vaccine, the Minister of Health, Armindo Tiago, stated that the Center for Disease Control (CDC-Africa), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Society of Medicine defend the efficacy of the said vaccine, arguing that it could be used in any country.
After scientific studies were carried out on it, Armindo Tiago defended its use in Mozambique despite the existence of countries that are skeptical about the use of the controversial vaccine.
The Observatório do Cidadão para Cidadão (OCS) is concerned with regards to the position of the Health Minister in relation to the AstraZeneca vaccine, given that he ministry has been ignoring international scientific trends. By ignoring scientific trends, the search for explanations and safe mechanisms for the use of the vaccine in question is underestimated.
In other words, Mozambique’s silence in the face of this situation is very worrying. With this, the OCS believes that the country – through the health sector leaders and beyond – must take a clear and robust position on the vaccine, which, worldwide, has been raising alarming debates.
Even without a clear government stance, 384.000 vaccines from the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, donated through the COVAX mechanism, have already entered Mozambique.
As part of the same Covax initiative, which aims to vaccinate the poorest countries in the world, Mozambique expects to receive, by May this year, more than 1.7 million vaccines.
Over 20 countries, worldwide, have suspended the administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19, after it has been reported that it causes blood clots in certain patients. Germany, for example, announced the temporary suspension of vaccine administration, following reports of side effects (blood clots), as well as deaths.
Other countries such as Austria, Norway and Denmark have also banned the use of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine. Thailand, for its part, became the first Asian country to suspend the same vaccine.
In Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which has not yet started its vaccination campaign, was the first country to stop the use of AstraZeneca/Oxford.
“We are waiting for the conclusion of the investigation that is being done by the Europeans and by our scientific committee, so that we can make the final decision, perhaps in two or three weeks “, said the DRC Minister of Health, Eteni Longondo.
Cape Verde has also opted to wait for the scientific results on the vaccine, with the Ministry of Health kicking off the vaccination process using vaccines from the partnership between the Pfizer and BioNTech companies.
In Cameroon, where the first batch of vaccines has not yet arrived, the decision is the same. “The scientific council suggests that we do not use this vaccine until preliminary investigations are completed. We will receive the planned doses, but we will keep them until the guidelines are clear,” explained Cameroonian Health Minister Manaouda Malachie.
Other countries, such as Italy, use the vaccine preferentially in people aged over 60. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), only 86 cases of thrombosis were found in a population of 25 million immunized in Europe by March 22, 0.0003% of the total.
In Mozambique – despite the fact that other countries have refuted the Astra-Zeneca vaccine – in addition to health professionals, elderly people living in nursing homes, morgue workers and gravediggers were also covered. These groups took the first dose of the vaccine between March 8 and 12, at the beginning of the vaccination campaign in the country.
The second phase of vaccination, covering more groups, started on April 19.