BY LORRAINE MUROMO
MEMBERS of the public who were vaccinated with the first jab of the Indian Covaxin COVID-19 jab and failed to get the second dose might be forced to restart the vaccination exercise using Chinese Sinovac or Sinopharm doses.
The development comes at a time when neighbouring South Africa’s drugs regulator South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) on Monday announced that it was not approving an emergency use application for Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 shot for now, citing concerns about its safety for people at risk of HIV.
Zimbabwe is one of the countries that have approved the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. Russian mining firm, ALROSA, in June donated 25 000 doses of the vaccine and promised an additional 25 000 within months.
But SAHPRA said it had asked for data demonstrating that Sputnik V was safe in settings with high HIV prevalence, but that it had not received enough information to establish that.
“SAHPRA resolved that the … (emergency) application for Sputnik V … not be approved at this time. SAHPRA is concerned that use of the Sputnik V vaccine in … a setting of a high HIV prevalence and incidence may increase the risk of vaccinated males acquiring HIV,” the statement read.
In March this year, Zimbabwe got delivery of more than 35 000 doses of the Covaxin shot which was donated by the Indian government. However, government failed to acquire the second dose, blaming it on logistical problems at the height of the COVID-19 third wave that hit India in May and June this year.
Yesterday, Health deputy minister John Mangwiro confirmed that the country had failed to secure second jabs of the Covaxin, but sought to assure panicky citizens that government did not expect any health complications for taking another vaccine.
Mangwiro said those affected could restart the inoculation exercise using Chinese vaccines.
“Those who failed to get the second Covaxin dose should go to their nearest clinics and get inoculated. They can either get Sinopharm or Sinovac. It’s known that we follow science. There is no danger to their lives. They can also opt to restart the process and receive both the first and second doses of either Sinovac or Sinopharm vaccines,” Mangwiro said.
Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights secretary Norman Matara said: “Obviously, we cannot tell if there are any complications or not. We don’t have any data to that effect. We have had other vaccines mixed and there were no complications. So we hope it will be the same with this one (Covaxin). It also points to inefficiency and a system that is weak as well as poor planning on government’s part.”
Zimbabwe Senior Hospital Doctors Association president Shingai Nyaguse said restarting the vaccination process was unlikely to cause health complications as the Covaxin jab worked in the same manner as Sinovac and Sinopharm.
“Given the long interval since the first dose, it is prudent to restart the process. Of course, people should quickly report to the Health ministry in the unlikely event of adverse effects,” Nyaguse said.
Health expert Cletos Masiya said since it was a donation, government should have purchased the second dose.
Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said: “It is sad and an unnecessary inconvenience for the government to be urging the people who had willingly come forward to get vaccinated to restart the vaccination process due to poor planning on the part of government without even offering an apology to the affected citizens.”
He said this would result in distrust, adding that it was high time Zimbabwe seriously considered using single dose vaccines.
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