QCOSTARICA – Following vaccination suspensions across Europe and despite the insistence by AstraZeneca on Sunday, Costa Rica’s Health authorities will have the AstraZeneca vaccine under scrutiny between now and May, when it is expected to arrive in the country.
The Ministry of Health informed that it will be pending the studies and communications that are issued on the drug to avoid putting the population at risk.
On Friday, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) asked to add “serious allergies” to the list of possible side effects of this Covid-19 vaccine, after detecting reactions.
On Sunday, the Netherlands and Ireland became the latest countries to suspend the use of the vaccine following reports of possible side effects including blood clots. The Netherlands suspension is to at least until March 29 as a precaution after reports of unexpected possible side effects in Denmark and Norway.
Last week, Austria stopped using a batch of AstraZeneca shots while investigating the death of a 49-year-old woman who died from blood clots 10 days after being administered the vaccine.
The EMA recommended an update to the product information, including anaphylaxis and hypersensitivity (allergic reactions) as side effects. The recommendation is based on an examination of 41 possible cases of anaphylaxis observed in some 5 million vaccinations in the UK.
Although the World Health Organization (WHO) has said it is investigating the reports of blood clots, its Chief Scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said: “It remains unclear if the vaccine is causing the blood clots.” She then added: “The adverse events which are reported after vaccination have to be seen in the context of events which occur naturally in the population. Just because it’s reported following a vaccination doesn’t mean that it’s because of the vaccination. It could be completely unrelated.”
On February 26, the Ministry of Health authorized the use of the AstraZeneca drug, based on the authorization of the European Medicines Agency.
Faced with the warning given in Europe, Costa Rica’s Health authorities confirm that at the moment there is no talk of the possibility of suspending the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but they are watching its evolution in Europe.
“The National Commission for Vaccination and Epidemiology remains attentive to what is indicated by the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as to the new evidence published on the AstraZeneca vaccine,” was the statement by the Ministry of Health.
Dr. María Luisa Ávila, former Minister of Health (2006-2011) and infectologist, says that what is happening with the vaccine in Europe should not cause panic, but it does require analysis.
“The agencies are obliged to report this type of action, the bad thing is that official communications have not yet come out, with a good analysis of what exactly happened. Vaccine-associated adverse reactions do not necessarily mean that the vaccine produced them, there may be a temporal association or a causal association.
“It would be very premature to say if Costa Rica, which has not even received the AstraZeneca vaccine, thinks about not putting it on or stopping the campaign, there is a lack of data to make a scientific and in-depth analysis of the issue.
“There is no indication that it is the vaccine that produced the reactions, because the incidence of thrombotic phenomena (related to clots) in the population has not increased, these are things that always occur in different communities and are due to other risk factors.
“Costa Rica has time, we are putting the Pfizer vaccines, those from AstraZeneca have not yet arrived and when they arrive we will have a lot more information and that is very positive,” said the good doctor.
Epidemiologist Rónald Evans agrees with Ávila and says that it is not yet time to make decisions.
“I have been reading about these people who would have had thrombosis problems, but it cannot be guaranteed that they were caused by the vaccine, that is under investigation.
“The prudent thing here is to wait a bit, see how the situation continues and wait for the well-founded results of the analyzes they are doing. The country has a window of time of a month and a half that will give greater clarity on the situation, so that the authorities know how to act,” Evans said.
Sped up vaccinations
The Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) sped up the vaccination program this past week, to vaccinate as many as possible during the first three days (Monday to Wednesday), foreseeing that the second dose three weeks later falls during Semana Santa.
Caja authorizes avoided the application of the second dose on Good Thursday and Good Friday (both legal holidays in Costa Rica), knowing that many could miss their appointment for the second dose because they might not have transportation or simply to people’s change in routine during Semana Santa.