Sixty-nine people who received their first jab of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine reported mild symptoms “supposedly attributable” to getting vaccinated, Chief Medical Officer Pearl McMillan said yesterday.
None of the reports resulted in hospitalizations or death, she noted during a virtual Ministry of Health press conference.
When asked about the UK government’s decision to offer alternative vaccines for healthy adults under 30 after the European Medicines Agency reported that rare blood clots may be a side effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine, McMillan said, “As we move down the road of immunizations with AstraZeneca, we have to continue to monitor what the science is giving direction to.
“This would have come to our attention today and certainly considerations along that line may have to occur.
“We all know with the AstraZeneca vaccine, we would have had a number of things come to the fore and as additional studies and additional information came forward, we were in a better position to make country- level decisions.”
The UK’s vaccine advisory committee said that by the end of March, some 79 people had suffered from blood clots after vaccination, 19 of whom died.
Health officials said over 10,000 Bahamians and residents have been vaccinated since the country launched its campaign in mid-March.
Referring to the 69 people who experienced mild symptoms, McMillan said, “This is less than one percent of all the persons who would have been vaccinated.
“Of these, sex was not documented for seven or 10 percent who reported the event.
“Most events reported, however, were among women, 42 of the 69 persons, and in people between the ages of 45 and 54.
“All of the events analyzed were classified as non-serious and mild.
“The World Health Organization’s global database of individual case safety records confirmed that symptoms of a flu-like illness can be expected as generally occurs with the body’s immune response to vaccines.
“Symptoms are usually mild to moderate and resolved within a few days. From our local experience, 69 persons reported 119 events.”
Data presented during the press conference showed that 21 percent of people, or 25 people, reported headaches; 15 percent, or 18 people, reported a fever; 13 percent, or 16 people, reported chills; nine percent, or 11 people, reported muscle pain; eight percent, or nine people, reported pain at the site of the injection; eight percent reported fatigue; six percent, or seven people, reported nausea; and 20 percent, or 24 people, reported other symptoms.
Those other events, McMillan said, each accounting for less than five percent, included injection site itching and rash, diarrhea and dizziness. She said there was one report of chest pain.
“For this period, there was no report of any case of anaphylaxis,” she said.
“There have been no reports involving post-vaccination hospitalizations and/or deaths.”
McMillan said that 60 percent of people who have been vaccinated so far are over the age of 60 and that more women have been vaccinated than men.
“More non-healthcare workers are being vaccinated when compared to healthcare workers,” she added.
“In early 2021, the Ministry of Health conducted a vaccine hesitancy survey among healthcare workers.
“The results were similar to this real-world experience and though they are not surprising, the ministry hopes that healthcare workers will sign up and show up for COVID-19 vaccinations.
“Healthcare workers have set the pace and they must lead the charge on so many other important health matters. It is only natural for them to do the same in this instance.”
Dr. Caroline Burnett-Garraway, medical chief of staff at Princess Margaret Hospital, said a study conducted across public healthcare institutions earlier this year showed about 40 percent of healthcare workers were prepared to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Bahamas received 53,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine last month.
An additional 67,200 doses secured through the COVAX Facility are expected in country next month.
Minister of Health Renward Wells said the government is open to sourcing different vaccines, noting that he’s fielded calls from many Bahamians who want the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.