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AstraZeneca: tales from vaccinated Nigerians

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The Chief Nursing Officer at the National Hospital, Mrs. Faith Eragbai, who was the second Nigerian to be vaccinated

The arrival of long-awaited Coronavirus vaccines from reputable pharmaceutical companies across the world was greeted with a sigh of relief. The anxiety and depression brought about by COVID-19 pandemic, with the resultant deaths and paralysis of world economies and other spheres of life, were simply crushing. One of the acclaimed vaccines was the AstraZeneca vaccine, manufactured by Serum Institute of India. Despite the initial acceptance and recommendation by relevant stakeholders, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), among others, the AstraZeneca vaccine soon got enmeshed in controversies, with some countries opting to stop its administration on their people.

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One of the reasons proffered for their action is that some persons that received the AstraZeneca jab experienced blood clot. The EU’s health authority and the WHO have maintained that the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks, which probably explains why these European countries have resumed rolling out the AstraZeneca vaccine and are administering it on their citizens.

Back home in Nigeria, after weeks of speculations and doubts among Nigerians on whether the country will secure the COVID-19 vaccine, on March 2, 2021, the Federal Government finally took delivery of the first batch of nearly four million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from COVAX. The 3.94m doses are part of the 16 million doses being expected from COVAX by the end of this year. The vaccine was shipped from Mumbai, India to Abuja. The Federal Government, through the Presidential Task force on COVID-19, on March 5, 2021, flagged-off a national COVID-19 vaccination programme at the National Hospital, Abuja after the vaccine was tested and certified to be effective and safe for use in the country by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). A medical doctor, Cyprian Ngong, of the National Hospital Abuja, who has been treating COVID-19 patients at the hospital’s isolation centre since the beginning of the fight last year, was the first Nigerian to receive the vaccine. Similarly, all state governors, aside Kogi State governor, have launched vaccination programmes in their states. This involved public vaccination of the state governors and strategic leaders to underscore the confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.

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Due to the experiences from other climes on the effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine, there have been concerns that Nigerians should be cautious in administering the vaccine. But the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), last Monday, said it has not received any official report of serious adverse effects from any of those that have been vaccinated. The agency explained that mild side effects, such as pains and swelling at the point of injection are expected, as normal with any vaccination, adding that the agency is working closely with NAFDAC to monitor any unusual adverse reactions to the vaccine. As the mixed feelings continue, some Nigerians that have taken the AstraZeneca jab share their experience.

The Chief Nursing Officer at the National Hospital, Mrs. Faith Eragbai, who was the second Nigerian to be vaccinated
I did not feel anything after taking the vaccine, no slight headache, no fever or anything. It is already three weeks and I have not had any adverse reaction. I am very strong. I was infected with the Coronavirus around June/July 2020. I was on admission for 19 days and 16 days on oxygen. My whole life almost collapsed, but I thank God for seeing me through. Today, I am alive to testify about His goodness. For Nigerians who are still skeptical about whether or not to take the vaccine, I have opened the way for them. I have sacrificed, because I know the effect of it. I know what I went through, even after I was discharged. It was as if COVID-19 virus was still there because of the complications. I was experiencing breathlessness up to January this year before God intervened and I can now breathe well, with other things that I was using: Zinc, vitamin C and all the drugs they prescribed. I took the vaccine because there is no guarantee that after surviving the virus, you won’t contract it again. I don’t want the infection again, and that is why I took the vaccine. And even if I contract the virus again, it won’t be severe or life-threatening.

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This is why we are advising Nigerians still doubting whether the Coronavirus is real or whether the vaccine is killing; that the vaccine doesn’t kill. Rather, it boosts the immune system to resist and lessen the complications from infections. When you take the vaccine, you will be confident that no matter what, death from the virus is out of it, especially when it has entered the stage of difficulty in breathing. However, you can still contract the virus after taking the vaccine, if you don’t take the precaution of washing your hands, wearing facemask and observing physical distancing, among others. There is no problem with the vaccine, I, Faith Iragba, is telling Nigerians to take the vaccine. They should ignore the conspiracy theories, and that people are dying after taking the vaccine. They are all lies. It is okay to take the vaccine.

Dr. Adebayo Akintayo, a medical doctor based in Lagos
The vaccine is very safe and probably more effective than we ever thought. I got my jab on March 15, 2021, and I have been perfectly okay since then. I was able to do all my activities on that day and even up till now without any complaint or side effect. We need to be more deliberate and serious in our approach to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to combine COVID-19 vaccination with other interventions in order to significantly protect ourselves. There is no point shooting down the jabs, whether it is AstraZeneca, Pfizer or Modena with misinformation/disinformation.

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Available evidence has shown that vaccination protects and reduces the severity of infectious disease. I would advise all eligible persons, age 18 and above, to take the COVID-19 vaccine. The Nigerian authorities, through various regulatory bodies are really monitoring patients’ response to all the jabs. Health workers are encouraged to fill the yellow cards for any reported adverse reactions from our patients. Therefore, anyone experiencing side effect should report to the vaccination centre for proper documentation and possible scientific evaluation.

Ibrahim Quadri, Journalist, Lagos
It was a feeling of calculated risk that welled up in me, I must confess. On Friday, March 12, 2021, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu got his jab together with some state officials that were present and willing to receive their shots. So, the initial doubt in me, especially going by the reports of suspension of the jab in European countries, was completely erased- having read the personal experiences of the governor and my colleagues.

Omokhunu

But when I was to receive mine yesterday, I began to wonder what would be the likely side effects on my system, especially as I was fasting. Eventually, I summoned up courage. After all, no medical expert had prescribed eating before taking the jab. While taking the prescribed rest of 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine, I noticed the flowing of the jab all round my system. After leaving the spot, it was a case of weakness and slight headache and later bitter taste in my mouth. A few minutes after walking up, I was sweating profusely, but I later felt very sound.

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This feeling of ease did not last, as I completely lost my physical strength, though I managed to get home. I showered, prayed and broke the fast at the appropriate time. I discovered that I needed to take much more water to suppress the dehydration. Although, I had a slight delay before sleeping, it was a sound sleep and I woke up feeling stronger. In all, my experience is a pleasing one because medical personnel already predicted the reactions I got. I, therefore, advise those who have not received to feel free and go for theirs. It’s for the good of all.

Omolara Omosanya, Journalist
I only experienced a sort of heaviness and tenderness in the arm where I got the jab, but nothing else otherwise. However, my husband, who is a medical doctor, had malaria like symptoms, though he was able to go to work.

Akinbowale Azeez Olawale, a cleaner at one of the isolation centres
I received the vaccine on March 12, 2021. I felt very weak the following day, after receiving my jab. This was aside a slight headache that I had till 7pm of that day. I did not take any drug to suppress the reaction, but I got better naturally.

Eric Togbe, a health worker at the National Hospital
I took the vaccine and there was no adverse effect. I decided to take the vaccine, because I work in the hospital community and I come in contact with many people, including patients. It is more than a week now that I took the vaccine and I am very okay. I urge all Nigerians to take the vaccine.

Toyin Adebayo, a journalist with Daily Independent Newspapers, Abuja Office
A few hours after taking the vaccine, I felt dizzy, and after that, I was thinking I wouldn’t be able to sleep. On the contrary, I slept like a baby without pains, no ache, nothing. Personally, I think the issue of reaction depends on individual’s body make up, because some people took it and said they had pains and couldn’t sleep, aside having headache. NAFDAC advised that when you are reacting to the jab, just like any other vaccine, take paracetamol. I took the vaccine because I believed it is good for me.

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Gbenga Omokhunu works with The Nation Newspapers, Abuja
The confidence to take the jab came from that fact that President Muhammadu Buhari and other notable Nigerians have taken the vaccine. Some people who are not so popular have also taken it and from findings, there were no reactions, despite the negative news flying around.

There was no serious reaction, except for my intake of more water than before in the first two days. For me, the vaccine is safe and efficacious for everyone. I hereby encourage Nigerians to take the vaccine with faith; all is well.

Dr. Olowojaiye Olufunke, medical doctor
I did not have any reaction after receiving the vaccine. It is safe.

Govt, Regulator’s Position
According to the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), over 8,000 Nigerians have received the vaccine. While allaying fears about the safety of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Vaccine, NPHCDA’s Executive Director, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, said the agency is aware of the concern being raised regarding a specific batch, ABV5300, of the AstraZeneca vaccine, adding that investigations are being conducted to determine if the batch is in any way linked to an observed side effect.

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He noted that while the agency await the outcome of the investigations, it is important to clearly state that Nigeria did not receive any doses from the batch that is at the centre of the controversy.

PHOTO: TWITTER/UNICEF IN NIGERIA

“No safety and efficacy standards have been compromised by government in the introduction of Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, as it was tested and certified as safe and effective for use in Nigeria by NAFDAC. None of the approved brands of COVID-19 vaccine is inferior. The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine costs relatively less than other available brands of COVID-19 vaccines, not because it is inferior, but because AstraZeneca, which partnered Oxford to produce the vaccine, announced that they would not be making profit during this pandemic and decided to sell at the cost price,” he added.

Also, NAFDAC Director General, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, after receiving a jab of the AstraZeneca vaccine, said her agency conducted diligent study on the vaccine and confirmed that it is safe and efficacious for use against the COVID-19 virus.

On why the agency granted accelerated approval to the vaccine, Adeyeye explained that from the record of the clinical trials conducted by the manufacturers and the analysis done by the agency, its benefits outweigh the side affects.

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On the concerns about the side affects, the NAFDAC boss stated that only few persons showed some allergy after taking the vaccine. She, however, said it is advisable that anyone who gets the jab should wait for 45 minutes for doctor’s observation before leaving the clinic.

On his part, Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, while commending Nigerians all over the country for their impressive collaboration with government agencies in getting the vaccine, said the exercise has been uneventful and has not recoded any adverse health events.

The President, Guild of Medical Directors (GMD), Prof Olufemi Dokun-Babalola, told The Guardian that the vaccine has been used by quite a number of people in Europe and elsewhere, with very little number of serious adverse effect.

“Around 17 million people in the EU and UK have now received the vaccine, and the number of cases of blood clots reported in this group is lower than the hundreds of cases that would be expected among the general population. I consider it to be safe enough for use in Nigeria. The down side of the vaccine is that it requires two jabs for maximal impact, which might pose logistic challenge to Nigeria,” he explained.

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