Somalia received its first shipment of the Oxford Astra Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses on Monday, just as other nations – particularly across Europe – put their vaccination efforts on pause because of concerns over the safety of the product.
The first batch of 300,000 doses to arrive in Mogadishu is provided through the global COVAX program and destined for frontline health workers, elders and people with underlying medical conditions. That’s in keeping with guidelines set by Somalia’s COVID-19 National Task Force.
“The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines happens at a critical time as Somalia is now experiencing a new wave of the epidemic,” said health minister Dr. Fawziya Abikar Nur. “It can only be contained if all countries stand together, Somalia included.”
Somalia will be able to vaccinate the first 20 percent of its population in stages, but now the Oxford Astra Zeneca product has come under fire after reports of illness and fatalities caused by blood clotting. The Danes, along with Norway and Iceland, temporarily suspended use of the product late last week because of the complications.
Ireland has followed suit, with other European nations including Germany and France announcing the same decision on Monday.
Astra Zeneca issued a statement Sunday meant to reassure partners and the public that its vaccine is safe and effective to use.
“A careful review of all available safety data of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the European Union (EU) and UK with COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca has shown no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or thrombocytopenia, in any defined age group, gender, batch or in any particular country,” the company said.
Image: Somalia Ministry of Health