By NONDUDUZO KUNENE | 2021-02-10
Mbabane GOVERNMENT has halted the procurement of the AstraZeneca vaccine. This decision comes two days after the latest findings by South African researchers about the strength of the AstraZeneca vaccines. The research showed that the Indian manufactured Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was not effective to the new variant of COVID-19 in that country. Close to 90 per cent of COVID-19 cases in that country have the variant, hence it decided to halt its rollout. Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi, speaking on Eswatini Broadcasting and Information Service news bulletin, disclosed that the country has resolved to immediately stop procuring the vaccine. The minister said the decision was informed by the fact that there were huge possibilities that the country might have the South African COVID-19 variant of which continuing with the vaccine would be pointless. She stated that they contacted COVAX to suspend the procurement of the AstraZeneca vaccine and consider other vaccines that may be competent to deal with the South African variant. The halting of this vaccine means government will not be able to vaccinate all healthcare workers within the first 100 days of 2021 as per World Health Organisation Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ plea last week. Effective Ghebreyesus was at pains yesterday allaying fears that the AstraZeneca vaccine was not effective, saying it has helped cure patients that suffered mild to severe symptoms and prevented more deaths. He said the vaccine must still be used where it can be effective, than a total rejection. The country was to receive 108 000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine which is regarded to be 70 per cent effective to COVID-19. The minister of health last week announced that the vaccine was expected before the end of the month. She stated that the reason to first procure AstraZeneca was because the vaccine required cold chains that the country already has and can be stored at refrigeration temperatures for up to six months which would have made it far easier for distribution. On a lighter note, Nkosi revealed that they would speed up the procurement of Pfizer vaccine which is more than 90 per cent effective to the virus. The minister said the country can now be able to store the Pfizer vaccine, all thanks to a storage refrigerator that was donated by the Natie Kirsh Foundation.
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