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Get vaccinated, save a life

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On the 17th of March, I got vaccinated with the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. I documented my observations before and after the shot. It is important for me to document and publish my observations. I have written several articles in The Guardian about the vaccines and encouraged people to get vaccinated. I should go beyond encouraging. People should know of my own vaccination experience.

There has been a lot of conspiracy theories and skepticisms around the vaccines, particularly the AstraZeneca-Oxford. There are almost ten vaccines being given around the world and more than times four of that are still on the third phase of the clinical trial. The most commonly available vaccines are Moderna, BioNTech-Pfizer, AstraZeneca-Oxford, Sputnik V, Johnson and Johnson, EpiVac Corona, Sinopharm, Sinovac and Covaxin (Bharat Biotech). All vaccines have side effects. These side effects can include pain at the injection site, nausea, fever and chills. Severe but rare side effects can be a life threatening condition like an anaphylactic shock. These side effects are not peculiar to AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines alone but can occur in all the other licensed COVID-19 vaccines. By the 2nd of February, blood clotting disorders had been reported in 17 people who had received either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. The occurrences or reports of these blood disorders though rare could be as a result of post vaccination COVID-19, an existing coronavirus infection and it could be that there’s an increase in awareness of the adverse reactions and more people are reporting the observations.

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The benefits of taking the vaccines far outweigh the risk of not being vaccinated.

However, the adverse reactions tied to blood clots post administration of AstraZeneca vaccines cannot be cursorily waved or wished away. More than 17 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine and there were 37 reported cases of blood clots. Out of this 37 cases, 15 were deep vein thrombosis and 22 were pulmonary embolism. They were observed more in the younger age groups. Therefore, countries like Canada and France have restricted vaccinations with AstraZenaca to those below 55 years while Germany and Netherlands have restricted the vaccine to those above 60 years. AstraZeneca vaccines are being manufactured in about 15 countries. The tranche of vaccines Nigeria received is from the Serum Institute of India (SII). The AstraZeneca vaccines supplied to the UK were manufactured in Oxford and Keele. The AstraZeneca heading to the European Union (EU) is manufactured in the USA, Belgium and in the Netherlands.

Israel has vaccinated the most number of people per capita, followed closely by the UK, Chile, Bahrain and USA. The rest of the European Union has been left lagging behind in its vaccination. The fast pace of vaccination by the UK has stomped the EU who has unsurprisingly activated a mechanism that stops export of vaccines from EU countries if the exporting company has not fulfilled its promise to the EU. This has created a spat with many experts saying that the EU is angered by the Brexit divorce of UK from the EU and the seemingly success of the UK’s vaccination.

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To date, the small island country has vaccinated more than half of its adult population with at least one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine or BioNTech-Pfizer. When about a dozen European countries momentarily paused the administration of AstraZeneca-Oxford jabs, the UK continued with its administration and did not stop. A handful of the countries that stopped vaccinations, though out of an abundance of caution are now having a third wave of the pandemic. This is most likely due to lower rates of vaccinations and the presence of the new variants of the virus. AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine protects against severe COVID-19 outcomes including hospitalisations. The USA has been vaccinating with Moderna and BioNTech-Pfizer but recently approved Johnson and Johnson. In the USA, since the ramp up of vaccinations, the number of daily deaths due to the virus has dipped. Countries in the EU are now beginning to look up to Russia’s Sputnik V. France’s Macron and Germany’s Merkel have held talks with Russia’s Putin on the possible supply or manufacture of Sputnik V in some European countries. Hungary and Slovakia have already gone ahead of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and approved for the supply of Russia’s vaccine. Prior to the chronic hitch in the supply chain of vaccines to the EU, the Sputnik V had been dismissed by much of the Western world

The USA, UK and countries in the EU have a variety of vaccines at their beck and call. Low-income countries of which Nigeria though rich in resources is sadly one of such nations is part of the WHO initiative to distribute vaccines freely to countries like Nigeria. On the 2nd of March, Nigeria received her first set of COVAX vaccines; 3.9 million doses. It was from this batch of COVAX vaccines that myself and other Nigerians got our shot. The Astra Zeneca vaccines came from the world’s largest vaccine manufacturing company; The Serum Institute of India. A few weeks ago, the Government of India has said it would stop exporting its vaccines outside the world’s second most populous nation because it wants to stockpile vaccines for itself. The SII had agreed to supply 200 million doses to COVAX. It had only supplied 20 million doses before the export ban. After Nigeria received the vaccines, the registration portal was opened by our National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA).

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A week after the portal was open for registration, I got registered. Some important points to note during the registration was that I had to upload my photo, enter my demographic data and ticked a form of identification. This could be your National Identity Card, your driver’s license or your voter’s registration. I also had to screen shot or copy out the portal generated identification number. The entire process did not take more than ten minutes and it was free. Several people asked me if it was free.

Since the pandemic started, I had been taking daily recommended doses of Vitamins D and C and a once a week dose of Zinc. Seven days before I got the vaccine, I just wanted to have an undiluted observation so I stopped taking all these supplements.

When I got to the vaccination site, there were very few people. Altogether, including the staff vaccinating, we were not more than twelve. At the time there was no queue and I had to wait till prospective vaccinees were up to five so as to maintain the cold chain. While waiting for us to be five, I went to the registration table to confirm my registration. When it was my turn, I took photos of my vaccination and even made a short video encouraging people to get vaccinated.

The injection was intra muscular and I did not feel any pain aside from the needle point. People have varying degrees of threshold for pain. After the injection, I was asked to hold a cotton swab on the injection site and waited in the room for thirty minutes to observe any reaction. There was none. I was given a green card on which was written the date for a twelve-week appointment to come back for the second dose in June. There was a QR code attached to the card. The card and entire vaccination was free.

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The entire time I spent there was about 90 minutes, which included the thirty minutes I waited for post vaccination observation. I drove to work after the inoculation. I had breakfast before my vaccination and I had my lunch about six hours after. I did not feel sick, pain or any untoward effect. I also resumed my daily intake of vitamins C and D about 10 hours after my vaccination.

However, at around 10 pm on the day I received my vaccination, I took cold water and stayed in a very cold room. After this, I began to feel cold for several hours so I’m not sure if it was the cold water or it was simply exaggerated by the vaccine. In hindsight, I think the cold body temperature was exaggerated by the vaccine because that day was not the first time that I’ll take cold water in the night. The cold feeling lasted for about six hours.

I took the vaccine on a Wednesday. From around 4 am of Thursday it began to rain heavily. When the rain gave some respite, I quickly took the opportunity and dashed off to work without having any breakfast. This fact is important because I was still noting my observations post vaccination. Well! At around 2:00pm, I started feeling light-headed. It’s difficult for me to attribute this faintness to the vaccine as it could have been due to an empty stomach. I did not take any meal or drink till after 2:00pm. I guess that my observations got contaminated again. About 24 hours post vaccination, I just felt a very dull pain at the injection site and it was gone after 48 hours. Today makes it two weeks since I got vaccinated and I’ve not felt the cold chills or light headedness since the times I observed them. I have not felt sick and except I check a calendar, I’ve almost forgotten the date I got my vaccine. Am I glad I got my vaccine? Yes! I still wear masks and keep all the COVID-19 protocols.

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A week after I got my vaccine, I went back to the vaccination site to make an inquiry. I was surprised that the vaccination site was now overflowing with prospective vaccinees. There must have been about 200 people or more waiting to get their vaccines. I was advised that if anyone wanted to come, they should come very early before 9:00 am and pick a number! Wow! Just a week before, we were waiting for people to come before opening a vial of the vaccine. I think as people were initially reluctant for the registration of the Bank Verification Number (BVN) and eventually caught on, people are also reluctantly but slowly catching on to getting vaccinated. Post vaccination, I have continued to observe myself and all is well. Get vaccinated. Save a life and yours!

Obilade, an Associate Professor of Public health is of College of Health Sciences, Nile University, Abuja.

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