Lusaka – Zambia’s Health Minister Dr Jonas Chanda has dispelled fears that the Covishield vaccine produced by AstraZeneca in India is unsafe, and has urged citizens to subscribe to the national immunisation campaign.
Zambia started vaccinating citizens with 228,000 doses of Covishield last week, with Dr Chanda first in line as a public show of confidence in the inoculant.
Dr Chanda said the national vaccination campaign targeted 8,438,118 people – or 46 percent of the population – beginning with frontline health workers.
The DRC has put the AstraZeneca vaccine on ice, citing possible side effects. Some European countries have also halted use of the vaccine pending further safety tests.
Dr Chanda, however, said, “I am aware of the myths, misconceptions and conspiracy theories surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines that have been taking their rounds on social and other media but the WHO have tested it against safety and efficacy,”.
The World Health Organisation has backed this saying: “At this time, WHO considers that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh its risks and recommends that vaccinations continue.”
The UN health agency did caution countries to investigate claims of harmful side effects.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is cheaper and easier to store than the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine that requires extremely low storage temperatures.
Twenty-five African countries have accessed AstraZeneca vaccines through COVAX, a joint initiative between WHO and the international vaccine alliance known as GAVI.