HomeLettersCovid-19 vaccination: So far so good

Covid-19 vaccination: So far so good

Covid-19 vaccination started on February 18, 2021 in our country, making Zimbabwe one of the first 10 countries to roll out this important programme. The national airline, Air Zimbabwe, had to fly to China to get our vaccines.

Johannes Marisa

The Ministry of Health and Child Care should be applauded for the solid position and concrete move to acquire the vaccines.

I got my vaccine five days ago and it is good news that I, like many front-liners, have not experienced any toxic side effects.

This is a streamlined exercise by the ministry of Health and Child Care that has witnessed an amazing uptake by the medical professionals. Keep it up Zimbabwe! No deaths yet from those who took the vaccines as anticipated by the cynics.

Morbidity and mortality from Covid-19 continue unabated with more than 112 million people having been infected already and at least 2,495 million people having lost their lives. The survivors have to remain on  extra alert as public health measures should be observed. Pandemics have always brought misery to the people if history is to be looked at with the 1957/58 Asian flu being an example. An American microbiologist, Maurice Hilleman, saw the need to make a vaccine in May 1957 and within four months, the vaccine was already in use. Hilleman even bypassed regulatory agencies in his efforts to push the vaccine forward because he worried those agencies would slow the process down. That was then in 1957 when there was no much advanced technology. Health order was brought to the world.

We are in 2021 and the whole world is in a quandary because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many pharmaceutical companies have been working flat out to make drugs that include vaccines.

Both messenger RNA and vector vaccines have been made. Vector vaccines include SinoPharm, Sinovac, Astrazeneca and Sputnik V while Pfizer and Moderna are both messenger vaccines. Cold chain maintenance for Moderna and Pfizer vaccines is quite difficult in low-resource countries as extremes of temperatures are required. Pfizer requires temperatures of -70 degrees while Moderna needs to be kept frozen at -20 degrees. There was so much scepticism and criticism when Zimbabwe delivered its first batch of vaccines with some false theorists postulating that there would be mass deaths from the vaccines themselves.

People should appreciate the types of vaccines that are available in our country taking cognisance that from birth, we get vaccinated. Some prophets are now at the forefront of discouraging citizens from taking the available Covid-19 vaccines. I am not sure if they have medical arguments to defend themselves as the issue of vaccines is purely a public health issue that ought to be handled by medical professionals.

Pharmaceutical companies can make use of either attenuated or inactivated viruses when making vaccines. Attenuated viruses are weakened viruses which are still able to replicate and for all this time, people have been receiving these vaccines to counter measles, rubella, mumps and rotavirus while inactivated virus vaccines include those for rabies, hepatitis and polio. People should note that inactivated viruses are killed viruses that never replicate but can induce an immune response.

The SinoPharm vaccine is not made of live attenuated virus, but there is an inactivated virus that does not replicate but can, of course, induce an immune response.

In Africa, the SinoPharm vaccine is now being used in Zimbabwe, Senegal, Seychelles, Egypt and Morocco, and none of these countries have recorded fulminant results from the vaccine. Although there are about 73 possible side effects from the SinoPharm vaccine, people should realise that it is world standard for drug manufacturers to list all the possible side effects when releasing a drug.

The SinoPharm vaccine was approved for mass administration on January 4, 2021 by the Chinese Food and Drug Administration after achieving about a 79% efficacy rate. Although the vaccine was in phase 3 trial by then, it is my belief that phase 1 and 2 are the most important phases of drug development. Phase 1 trials seek to evaluate safety of the drug, determine safe doses and identify side effects while phase 2 trials test drug effectiveness and further evaluate safety. Phase 3 trials work to confirm effectiveness, monitor side effects and collect vital information. It is thus imperative that correct information be availed to people so that they make informed decisions about accepting or rejecting the vaccination.

For pandemics to be weeded out, the population should develop herd immunity to a specific disease and usually at least 70% of the population should be vaccinated. Vaccinating only 10% of the population will not yield the expected results as that will not give enough protection to the population. We need cooperation from everyone if such pandemics are to be won easily. Conspiracy theories, fear and misinformation are not good factors if public health is to be successful. It is wise to acquire information from the medical professionals to avoid confusion and disinformation. Getting one-sided medical information on the internet may mislead you. Get your jab today!

With vaccination, we will get to the destination.

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