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DRC suspends Covid-19 vaccination programme pending ’blood clot’ investigations

A laboratory technician in protective gear works with test tubes.

File photo: Health Minister Eteni Longondo said on Monday that the DRC has suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine but could resume the planned vaccination programme if investigations reveal that the jab is safe for use.

Published Mar 16, 2021


CAPE TOWN - The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has suspended its Covid-19 vaccination campaign pending investigations into whether the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe for use.

However, Health Minister Eteni Longondo on Monday said the country could resume the planned vaccination drive, provided the jab is found to be safe.

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When questioned about the safety of the vaccine, Longondo said the cause-and-effect relationship between the AstraZeneca vaccine and the occurrence of blood coagulation disorders is not formally proven yet, according to Kenyan publication The EastAfrican.

He said many countries are still using the AstraZeneca vaccine and have not reported any case of blood clotting after its use.

But, “as a precautionary measure, it has been decided to postpone the date for the launch of vaccination in the DRC. The new date will be announced as soon as the results of the investigations already under way are available.”

The DRC’s decision to postpone the vaccination campaign, originally set to begin on Monday, mirrors the move of some European countries using the AstraZeneca vaccine, including Denmark, Norway and Bulgaria, that decided to postpone their roll-out due to concerns about blood clots, Radio France Internationale (RFI) reported on Sunday.

The DRC received 1.7 million doses made by Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and was due to start its campaign this week.

The DRC has recorded 26,846 cases, 712 deaths and 22,432 recoveries since the first Covid-19 case was detected in the country on March 10, 2020, when a Congolese national returning to Kinshasa from his residence in France tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

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More than 1.7 million doses of coronavirus vaccines arrived in the DRC last week as part of the Covax initiative, which aims for an equitable distribution of doses across the world, according to news agency AFP.

Covax, run by the WHO along with health NGOs, intends to supply vaccines to dozens of countries in the first 100 days of 2021, and two billion doses by the end of the year.

The alliance comprises the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi (the Vaccine Alliance), the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) and the WHO.

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On Saturday, Indian officials said they would carry out a deeper review of its post-vaccination side effects. The WHO maintains that no evidence has been found directly linking the AstraZeneca vaccine to blood clotting.

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


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