Experts’ report dismisses ‘vaccine deaths’ fears


. . . Health minister assures Basotho, urges vaccination


MASERU – Sensational claims that the Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine claimed the lives of five people in Leribe recently have been dismissed by health experts. Investigations have revealed the following as the causes of the fatalities: the first three deaths were caused by Covid-19, heart disease, HIV and diabetics; the fourth death was caused by an allergic reaction to the vaccine; while the fifth death was caused by heart disease, high blood pressure and inconsistent adherence to medical prescription.

Sekatle noted that allergic reaction to the vaccine is a rare condition that can happen with any kind of vaccine but happens to one person out of one million people. Allegations were that the vaccine had caused the deaths but a report by epidemiologists, world experts on allergies, health experts from World Health Organisation, the African Union and Lesotho has proved otherwise.

Minister of Health Semamo Sekatle said the report that will later be presented to WHO, AU and vaccine manufacturing companies reveals that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe for use and the five deaths cannot be attributed to it.

He said, as a result, the country will continue to encourage citizens to vaccinate so that the country can curb the Covid-19 pandemic. To come up with this report, Sekatle said medical experts visited families of the deceased and carried out in depth investigations on the deceased’s medical histories before and after they took the vaccine, the symptoms they showed after vaccinating and actions that were taken to address the said symptoms.

He said people that were vaccinated at the same vaccination centre on the same day with the deceased were also examined. Authorities also investigated how the vaccination centre operates and how it handles the vaccine but nothing unusual or out of order was detected.

Sekate said all these investigations revealed no mismanagement or misuse of the vaccine or connection of the deaths to the vaccine. He said blood, corpses and body fluids were inspected in the country while other body parts were sent to South African independent laboratories. “To ensure that the investigations were done to perfection, world leaders experts in allergies from Australia were also part of the investigation team.

“Findings revealed that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has no harm to humans. It does not kill, rather it cures and we continue to encourage people to get vaccinated so that we curb Covid-19,” he said. He said Lesotho is not the only country that is administering Johnson & Johnson as countries like Tanzania and Zambia are also using the vaccine.

He said as of today, Lesotho has vaccinated more than 250 000 people and approaching the 10% of the population vaccination recommended by WHO by the end of September, further noting that four billion people worldwide have been vaccinated with the same vaccine.

Sekatle said out of these vaccinated people none have experienced severe side effects of the vaccine. He said severe events following immunisation are very rare emphasizing that Covid-19 vaccines have been safely administered and the benefits of protecting people from severe illness or death from Covid-19 far outweighs any potential risk.

Sekatle said mild and moderate side effects after vaccination are normal signs that the body is developing protection against Covid-19. He said possible side effects include a sore arm, tiredness, mild fever, body or headaches, further noting that the side effects are unlikely to last more than a few days.

World Health Organisation (WHO) representative Dr Richard Banda says there are encouraging indicators that the pandemic has been on the decline in Lesotho over the past two weeks. He, however, noted that the outbreak has stabilised at a high level with more than 500 cases and 15 deaths in the past week translating to 14 395 cases and 400 deaths that the country has recoded to date.

He said solutions to curb the spread of Covid-19 differ from district to district pointing out that some districts continue to see increased number of cases, while in others the numbers are declining. He said as long as the virus is still circulating anywhere, it remains a threat hence he encourages the use of tools available to minimise deaths and transmissions.

Banda said Lesotho is on track to surpass WHO’s target of vaccinating 10% of the population by end of September but further noted that the coverage is not enough for the country to reap the full benefits of the vaccine. “While we understand people’s concerns, vaccines remain highly effective at preventing severe disease and death. The safety of Covid-19 vaccines is our top priority,” he said.





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