• Feature
    The arrival of the first shipment of AstraZeneca vaccine at the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) on March 15, 2021.
    Photo: Michael Sloley

    Member of the World Health Organization (WHO) Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) Working Group on COVID-19 Vaccines, Professor Peter Figueroa, says the AstraZeneca vaccine is very effective and safe for almost everyone to receive, including pregnant and breastfeeding women.

    Participating in an online forum on May 7, he points out that more than 100 million persons have received the AstraZeneca vaccine worldwide, adding that there is nothing infective inside the vaccine that would cause harm to the human body.

    Professor Figueroa explains that the vaccine includes only a genome of the virus that has been emptied of any active and harmful material.

    He notes that this empty ‘shell’ will then obtain ribonucleic acid (RNA) that can code the gene that mimics the spike protein of the coronavirus.

    The primary function of RNA is to act as a messenger carrying instructions from the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), for the controlling of proteins in a cell.

    Professor Figueroa emphasises that there is no other substance that enhances the body’s immune response to an antigen inside the AstraZeneca vaccine.

    He says that the only persons he encourages to hesitate in taking the vaccines are those undergoing cancer treatment or persons who have very low immunity and are acutely ill.

    Professor Figueroa advises that individuals recovering from COVID-19 should wait between four to six months before taking the vaccine. This delay not only facilitates the recovery process but also allows the body to build natural immunity from the virus, he adds.

    “The duration of protection from the vaccine is not known, but we know it’s at least six months and we expect it to be well over a year, a couple of years. We may need boosters in the future, but we expect it to be beyond a year,” he says.

    Professor Figueroa notes that one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine is 70 per cent effective to protect an individual from the disease and the transmission of it.

    However, he points out that this protection takes three to four weeks to develop, and some persons may show mild symptoms of COVID-19, should they contract the virus.

    Professor Figueroa says it is highly unlikely that the disease will progress to a severe or critical stage.

    After receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, persons are observed for 15 or 30 minutes if there has been a history of allergies.

    Professor Figueroa says that there is an extremely rare blood clot that is found in five out of one million persons who receive the vaccine and emphasised that blood clots are a common occurrence for patients with severe COVID-19.

    He notes that, usually, doctors will keep these patients on blood thinners to correct the issue.

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