By Orville Williams
The country’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Rhonda Sealey-Thomas confirmed, yesterday, that the Health Ministry has so far received no reports of any worrying side-effects in people who have been inoculated with the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.
“So far, no. We’ve been seeing the effects you would expect – the chills, the tiredness, muscle aches, fever – but [as I mentioned] these are things that we expect because they’re part of the body’s response to the vaccine. Those are what we’ve been seeing so far.”
The CMO’s disclosure follows widespread local concerns of potentially dangerous side-effects, after a teacher who had been recently vaccinated for Covid-19, died.
Across the region, the death of a Jamaican journalist who also recently received the Covid-19 vaccine, was met with similar concerns and apprehension.
Of course, several factors have to be considered before judgements can be made and health officials across the world have tried to remind the public that – with the vaccine only offering a certain amount of protection – individual comorbidities could still maintain the risk of one becoming infected with the virus.
In the US, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention completed a review just last month, that revealed the death of a Nebraska man was “coincidental” and not related to the first vaccine dose the man received approximately two weeks prior.
Speaking on the correlation between vaccinations and subsequent deaths, Dr Michael Osterholm, Director of the Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, explained that, “this should not be unexpected. If you vaccinate a group of individuals – particularly a large group of adults – you’re going to start seeing these health consequences occur, but not related to the vaccine, just related to life”.
Simply put, there is no guarantee that a Covid-19 vaccine is responsible for the death of anyone who may have previously received said vaccine.
Nevertheless, Dr Sealy-Thomas said the Ministry is documenting all the reported side-effects from the Covid-19 vaccine, as has been the practice with other vaccines.
“We have been administering vaccines in Antigua and Barbuda mainly to our pediatric population for many, many years. As part of that programme, we do register and report to the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), adverse events associated with vaccinations.
“Covid-19 vaccination is no different, we do record and encourage the public to report the adverse events and we have a responsibility to monitor and report those to PAHO.”
Approximately 30,000 persons have been vaccinated for Covid-19 so far in Antigua and Barbuda and the public vaccination programme is now in its ‘second phase’.
However, the daily numbers have reduced somewhat during this second phase and the CMO sought to provide an explanation for the fall off.
“I think what we saw in the first phase was that the persons who had made up their minds to take the vaccine, who know of the effectiveness of vaccines, how vaccines work and how vaccines can actually help us, they actually came out.
“What we’re actually seeing now is persons who may not have made up their minds, who – from our discussions with the general public – are still trying to understand vaccines. That’s why we have public education, to let persons know that vaccines are safe and what they do.
“I’m hopeful that our activities in terms of educating the public and letting them know that vaccines are safe will encourage them to come out to our vaccination sites and get vaccinated.”
While reports of Covid-19-vaccine-related deaths have been popping up in countries across the world, health officials have denounced practically all of them as cases of coincidence rather than causation.