WanaData Africa
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WanaData Africa

The Need for Monitoring and Reporting Adverse Effects of COVID Vaccines

By Blessing Oladunjoye

In the early hours of Friday, March 26, 2021, I took the first dose of Oxford AstraZeneca Vaccine at the Ifako General Hospital, Lagos, and the nurses informed me to take Paracetamol tablets if I experience any side effects and also gave a phone number to call, should it become unbearable.

After the vaccination, I went about my daily tasks, but later in the evening, I started feeling weak when I took a shower before going to bed. I started feeling cold, pains in my arm at the spot of vaccination and loss of appetite. I went to sleep without telling anyone what I was experiencing. It grew worse on Saturday and I didn’t have to tell my brother before he realized I was unwell. A foodie like me couldn’t eat anything and I was nauseous but didn’t vomit.

I became worried as I was not informed about the possible side effects I could experience and was also undecided if this was ‘too much’ enough for me to call the phone number provided. I decided to tablets as I was earlier told and placed an iced block on my already swollen arm.

I didn’t call the phone number provided because I felt I would be asked to keep using paracetamol and watch the situation till Monday, since it was during a weekend.

My experience is one of the undocumented numerous side effects people who took the vaccination have had.

Some Adverse Effects of COVID-19 Vaccine

Oftentimes, Nigerians are not informed about the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines they could experience at the point of vaccination and this is responsible for fears and concerns when experiencing side effects.

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service identifies some side effects that vaccine recipients could experience to include allergic reactions or blood clotting, said to be very rare.

It was noted that side effects are usually mild and should not last longer than a week, while some of them are; “a sore arm from the injection, feeling tired, a headache, feeling achy, feeling or being sick.”

The European Medicines Agency (EMA), also highlighted the most common side effects experienced by at least one in 10 people after being inoculated with one of the three jabs authorised for use in both the UK and EU.

Undocumented Adverse Effects of COVID-19 Vaccine

Just like this reporter who didn’t report the side effects she experienced after being vaccinated, there are other Nigerians who do not consider it as important to report to the Ministry of Health or National Primary Health Care Board, NPHCDA.

This, according to Medical expert and President, Atayese Health Network, Dr. Adeolu Olusodo, is caused by the weak monitoring framework set up by the NPHCDA which would also alter the documentation process of the agency.

Sharing his experience after receiving the vaccine, Jude Ifovboa, who had tested positive to COVID-19 twice in July and August 2021, recalled that he felt like he had the COVID-19 all over again.

After he took the first dose of the Moderna vaccine on August 28th, 2021, Ifovboa explained that he was scared if he was positive for COVID-19 for the third time because his experience was exactly the same as the two times he tested positive to COVID-19 earlier.

“What got me worried was because I didn’t start experiencing the side effects until the third to fifth day after being vaccinated and I’ve heard that taking the vaccine doesn’t prevent someone from contracting the virus.”

Ifovboa said he reported his experience when he went to receive the second jab of the vaccine on the 27th of September.

While his report was not documented, Ifovboa believes that there should have been a portal where all side effects could be reported to enable the NPHCDA to track and monitor side effects among Nigerians.

Ikemesit Effiong, a man in his early thirties, after receiving the Moderna Vaccine also experienced “Headaches, nausea, low-grade fever, tiredness”

Effiong said, “we were briefed at the point we took the jab about some of the side effects and that it was normal. However, I had to call the phone number provided on the card to be certain my experience was in line with normal expectations.”

Effiong believed that the process worked well as he was able to get answers to his questions, but did not know if his report was documented.

Study of Adverse Effect of COVID-19 by NPHCDA

The NPHCDA recently conducted a study to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in enrolled adult individuals who are 18 years and above who have received the authorized COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria for the purpose of safety signal detection.

The Executive Director of the NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib explained that “the findings suggest that the vaccine is quite safe and the reported symptoms are mild and to be expected in the first three days following vaccination.”

Giving more details, Dr. Shuaib said that, “the findings of this study showed that 52.6% of 1,284 enrolled reported non-serious adverse effects and only one subject or 0.08% reported serious adverse effects in the first week following vaccination. None of the enrolled subjects who reported adverse effects required hospitalization.”

“The commonest reported symptoms among vaccinees were tenderness at injection site 20.9% and fever 20.3%. Most of the reported symptoms (55.5%) occurred within the first 3 days of vaccination while 40.2% of the vaccinees with reported symptoms could not recall time of onset of symptoms. Adverse Effects Following Immunization were reported more in the older age groups with 61.5% of those older than 60years reporting symptoms compared to 34.9% of those aged 18–24 years.

“The difference for age was statistically significant (p=0.003). Those with pre-existing morbidities were also observed to have higher rates of reported symptoms (AEFIs) than those without pre-existing morbidities even though the observed difference was not statistically significant (p=0.551)”

Dr. Shuaib, who explained that there was no report of Vaccine-induced COVID-19 or deaths related to the vaccines, noted that older recipients of the vaccines need to be particularly counselled as to what to expect and not to panic as the symptoms are mild and time-limited.

Strengthening Monitoring/ Reporting Mechanisms

In June 2021, Australia withdrew the AstraZeneca vaccines because it found more clotting cases among those in their 50s — a risk of 2.7 clotting cases per 100,000 first doses.

Germany, Italy, France and Spain had also joined the ranks of European countries that temporarily halted the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine over blood-clot concerns.

Medical Expert, Dr. Olusodo believes that other countries that recalled AstraZeneca vaccines from circulation wouldn’t have been able to do so, without appropriate monitoring.

Olusodo recommended that there should be either an online based or hardcopy form for Nigerians to report any side effects they experience, to enable the NPHCDA to do appropriate documentation.

“Although, the NPHCDA was not clear about the approach of the observational study it recently concluded, if there were proper reporting mechanism, there wouldn’t have been a need for any study to check the side effects of the vaccines, the agency would only be required to analyse the reports that have been submitted by various individuals across the country.”

The medical doctor also explained that setting up a reporting framework is not for any negative purpose, but to enable the NPHCDA to be up-to-date about how individuals with varying demographics react to the vaccination.

“This OUTBREAK story was supported by Code for Africa’s WanaData program as part of the Data4COVID19 Africa Challenge hosted by l’Agence française de développement (AFD), Expertise France, and The GovLab

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WanaData is a Pan-African network of female journalists, data scientists and techies working on changing the digital media landscape by producing and promoting data-driven news while applying digital technologies in their storytelling.

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