BY RICHARD MUPONDE
HEALTH experts have warned that people receiving the second dose of the Chinese-manufactured COVID-19 Sinopharm vaccine might experience severe side effects, but said this should not be cause for alarm as the pain would subside with time.
At least 39 067 frontline workers who underwent the first vaccination programme, which started last month, are due to receive the second jab to complete the course.
Vice-President and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga was the first person to be inoculated with the Sinopharm vaccine on February 18 at Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital in Harare, and yesterday got his second jab.
Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights secretary Norman Matara told NewsDay that it was normal for vaccines to trigger side effects in patients.
“Side effects after the second dose may be more intense than those experienced during the first dose. However, there is no need for citizens to panic, as this is actually a good sign. The side effects mean that your body is responding to the vaccine, and is triggering an immune response that will result in production of antibodies, exactly what the vaccine is designed to do,” he said.
Matara cautioned people against spreading falsehoods once the side effects begin to manifest.
“Musazoti 666 yatanga (when you see that happening, don’t speculate that the number 666, which was mentioned in the book of Revelations in the Bible is being fulfilled).”
Matara said the side effects would include pain, redness and swelling of the injected site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain and ache, chills, fever and nausea.
“The side effects are self-limiting and resolve on their own usually within a few days. There is no danger to life anticipated. We advise the public to participate in the national vaccination programme as vaccination of individuals has been proved to be an effective way of eradicating pandemics. These vaccines go through various stages of clinical trials before approval and are safe and effective. We need to get vaccinated in order for us to return to normalcy,” he said.
Matara said roughly, 40% to 50% of the vaccinated people would experience side effects.
Medical and Dental Private Practitioners of Zimbabwe Association president Johannes Marisa said the public should not panic as there was no drug without side effects.
“It’s an international standard that you are supposed to list all possible side effects of that particular drug. You hear that paracetamol causes hepatitis, jaundice (yellowing of the eyes), nausea, diarrhoea, severe headaches, poor vision and so forth. However, have you ever developed poor vision or hepatitis from paracetamol? No,” Marisa said.
“So I don’t think it’s necessary to panic because it’s like any other drug. We don’t want people to be frightened.”
He called for concerted efforts to ensure increased uptake of the COVID-19 vaccines so that the country achieves its targeted herd immunity of 60% and return to normalcy.
The national vaccination programme, spearheaded by government to fight the highly infectious respiratory disease, has experienced low uptake, with mostly nurses doubting the efficacy of the Chinese-produced vaccine, Sinopharm.
To date, the disease has claimed over 1 500 lives in Zimbabwe, amid fears that a looming third wave could cause more fatalities.
“From a simple survey I did a few days ago from those who got vaccinated, especially the frontliners, there is virtually nothing in terms of side effects. My family and members of staff, we were all vaccinated and we didn’t experience any serious or life-threatening side effects,” Marisa said.
Health deputy minister John Mangwiro said the side effects were not anything to be scared
“Information is also there about the vaccine (Sinopharm) in the medical journals. You find that these doctors just post these things on social media. I am a doctor, I have been vaccinated today and as I speak to you, I am attending to patients that have experienced no side effects,” he said.
Early this week, Zimbabwe took delivery of the second batch of a donation of 200 000 doses of Sinopharm and 200 000 doses of another Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine procured by government.
Chiwenga said the second rollout programme would target the education and religious sectors, with the rest of the population expected to be catered for in the third phase.