The World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday it had joined forces with African governments to boost the safety of COVID-19 vaccines as their rollout in the continent gathered steam.
Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said that the establishment of robust surveillance systems has been prioritized to ensure that administration of the vaccines among high-risk groups triggers minimal side effects.
“Every vaccine shot given moves us closer to ending this pandemic,” Moeti said in a statement issued in Nairobi.
This historic endeavor, however, is not risk-free. African countries have put in place stringent regulations and are monitoring for side effects and any severe adverse events following vaccination, she noted.
Moeti said WHO had partnered with African countries to manage potential risks arising from inoculation against the coronavirus.
Statistics from WHO indicate that more than 13.6 million, including 12 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses have been administered in Africa, while only mild adverse effects have been reported.
Moeti said that no single case of blood clotting has been reported in the continent, noting that many African countries have put in place stringent approval processes to ensure the vaccine meets the safety and efficacy threshold.
The WHO-led African Vaccine Regulatory Forum is supporting African countries to strengthen oversight and regulatory capacity in order to ensure inoculation against the virus is devoid of risks. And regulators from Ethiopia, Ghana, South Africa and Tanzania have participated in the WHO global assessments for safety and efficacy of the three COVID-19 vaccines that have received emergency use listing, said Moeti.
Richard Mihigo, an immunization and vaccine development program coordinator at the WHO regional office for Africa, said that enhanced safety of the COVID-19 vaccine is key to facilitate its seamless rollout in the continent.
“Strengthening pharmacovigilance systems in Africa is key to boost the safety of vaccines and other medical products aimed at fighting the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mihigo.