Covid-19 in Africa

DRC stalls rollout of AstraZeneca vaccine over health concerns

A Covid-19 mural seen in Kinshasa on the walls of the Fine Arts Academy. The DRC has decided to postpone its 15 March 2021 vaccination drive due to health concerns raised by Nordic countries.
A Covid-19 mural seen in Kinshasa on the walls of the Fine Arts Academy. The DRC has decided to postpone its 15 March 2021 vaccination drive due to health concerns raised by Nordic countries. REUTERS/Benoit Nyemba

The Democratic Republic of Congo is to postpone its AstraZeneca vaccination campaign, originally set to begin on Monday. It is following moves by countries taking similar precautionary measures over blood clot fears.

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The DRC had received 1.7 million doses of the vaccine against Covid-19 made by Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and was due to start its campaign on 15 March. 

However, Health Minister Eteni Longondo said in a statement released on Saturday that "As a precautionary measure, we decided to postpone the date for the launch of vaccination in the DRC."

"There were countries which suspended their vaccination plans out of precaution because they reported problems with thrombosis and death. So far, there is no proof that these problems are linked to the vaccine," he said.

Minister Longondo added that a new date for the DRC's vaccination campaign would be announced shortly, after the results of national and international investigations are made available.

The DRC has reported 717 deaths from Covid-19 and over 26,000 cases of infection.

Denmark, Norway, Bulgaria and Iceland have paused using the shot as a precaution over blood clot fears.

On Saturday Indian officials said they would carry out a deeper review of its post-vaccination side effects.

In France, health minister Olivier Véran said the national medical agency had encouraged him to stick to the EU drug regulator’s decision that the AstraZeneca vaccine was not dangerous.

The World Health Organization has said that no evidence has been found directly linking the AstraZeneca vaccine with blood clotting.

The company insists the jab is safe and that "no evidence" exists of higher risk of blood clots.

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