The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has issued a statement responding to concerns raised after several countries suspended the use of the Oxford-Astrazeneca COVID vaccine.
According to CARPHA, some countries in the European Union suspended AstraZeneca from their vaccination campaign following reports of rare blood coagulation disorders in people who had received the vaccine.
“This was done as a precautionary measure while a full investigation is conducted into the reports. At present, it cannot be determined whether there is a link between the vaccine and the disorders. Adverse reactions that happen following immunisation with any vaccine need to be fully investigated to rule out various factors, for example , illnesses, the progression of a disease, and batch assessment, before a final decision is made by the health authorities,” CARPHA said.
The public health agency said it is important to note that the vaccine being used is not the same version or batch as the one in Europe.
“The World Health Organization’s Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) systematically reviews any vaccine safety signals and concerns related to COVID-19 vaccine safety. This committee is carefully assessing the current reports on the Astra Zeneca vaccine. As soon as WHO has gained a full understanding of these events, the findings and any changes to current recommendations will be immediately communicated to regional and international public health partners which includes CARPHA.”
Meanwhile, the WHO has stated that vaccination against COVID-19 will not reduce deaths from other causes.
As of 9 March, over 268 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered since the start of the pandemic, based on data reported to WHO by national governments. No cases of death have been found to have been caused by COVID-19 vaccines to date.
CARPHA gave the assurance that its regulatory system applies its reliance procedure to verify vaccines with emergency use authorization granted by stringent regulatory authorities of reference.
“CARPHA encourages persons who have been vaccinated with any of the COVID-19 vaccines available in their country, to report adverse events that occur after vaccination to the local health authorities.”
Commenting on the increasing number of COVID variants, CARPHA said its part of the normal cycle of viral infection and replication and should not be considered an unusual process.
“Because the variants appear more frequently the more subjects become infected, it is essential to maintain all the measures that prevent the occurrence of new infections (use of masks, washing hands, social distancing, avoiding crowds, etc.)”
“The appearance of new variants does not justify in any way the interruption of the vaccination campaigns against SARS-CoV-2. Cutting the transmission chains through preventive measures and the application of vaccines should be the primary objective at this stage of pandemic. Both the measures mentioned above and the mass vaccination of the population will help in the fight against the disease and the eventual end of the pandemic.”
CARPHA said the agency will continue to work with its regional and international partners and CMS, towards a harmonised regional response.
The overarching, the public health agency said, is for all countries to control the pandemic by slowing down the transmission of disease and reducing mortality associated with COVID-19.
“In this regard, we urge countries to continue ramping up their surveillance capacity to rapidly screen, identify, test, isolate and trace contacts of new cases supported by public health prevention and control measures of social distancing, wearing of masks, and hand hygiene.”