Roslin Institute

HUNTING FOR VIRUS: A scientist works on May 13 in the lab at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). —Photo: REUTERS

The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine that will be coming to Trinidad and Tobago have been deemed safe for use by one of the country’s medical practitioners.

This was the assurance given by Dr Roxanne Mitchell, General Manager (Ag), Primary Care Services at the Tobago Regional Health Authority (TRHA).

Mitchell, who was speaking at the virtual COVID-19 press conference on Wednesday, said she along with 114 healthcare workers in Tobago, have been vaccinated with minor side effects being experienced.

“I would have received the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine when it was presented to Tobago in February. In terms of side effects I would have had fatigue for two days but I was able to function otherwise.

“I had tenderness at the injection site. There was no fever. I did have a slight pain behind the eyes on day three and day four but I usually suffer with migraines and it may just have been as a result of that. Nonetheless, I was fine otherwise.”

Mitchell said that these responses to the vaccine means the body’s immune response is taking place, mounting a response both on the cellular level and on the humeral level in terms of the formation of antibodies to fight against the virus and components of the virus.

“The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine introduces a spike protein which is that attachment on the virus that allows it to stick to your cells, and the virus to enter into your body. So your body is now going to be able to mount a response anytime it sees the spike protein moving around in your system.’

She noted that the response all persons would experience would be from mild to noticeable, and would be the body actually mounting an immune response.

She added that when it comes to children the area around the injection site tends to be tender, sometimes angry in terms of being red, painful, and children tend to get a bit on the peevish side.

“Again, these are all natural responses to the body reacting to the introduction of the antigen, in this case it would be the COVID-19 spike protein.

Side effects of vaccine

“With regards to side effects and adverse effects, side effect is an effect that is secondary to the original intent. The original intent of course is to build the body’s immune system. Some of the side effects may be known and this is why we have the trials. You expect things like fever, you expect tenderness at the injection site. The majority of the times side effects are known and they are intended, however, every so often we have side effects that may be unknown and may be unintended, and the unintended tend to be the ones we deem adverse effects.

Stating that side effects are therapeutic but in some cases you can have adverse side effects which are rare events in terms of vaccines, Mitchell said hence the reason why they go through the clinical trial process before vaccines are introduced into the general public.

“Adverse effects are undesirable, harmful effects resulting either in this case a medicational vaccine or any other type of medical intervention. It is for this reason that we have associated with the administration of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine an observation time of about 15 to 30 minutes. WHO/PAHO as well as AstraZeneca have allowed 15 minutes. Here we are ensuring that persons are observed for at least 20 to 30 minutes going forward. The public should note that anaphylactic reactions are seen within the first 10 minutes of administration of the vaccine.”

Mitchell noted that the known side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine are categorised according to three groups-common, uncommon, and rare side effects.

She stated that very common side effects would include tenderness and pain at the injection site, while some persons may experience bruising, fatigue, chills, headaches, nausea and vomiting, which are seen in about one in every 10 persons, and which are mild.

“We did have a number of persons in Tobago experience some of the known notable side effects from the vaccine.

“Common side effects would include fever and a lot of persons who did report fever, have fevers about 38o Celsius and above. There is also swelling and pain at the injection site.

Uncommon side effects would include swelling of the nodes, decrease appetite, dizziness. Keep in mind that swelling of the node are in fact expected for some persons as it says that the body is actually building its immune system.

Tobago’s vaccination readiness

“We tested the delivery mechanism at the Scarborough Health Centre, one of the vaccination sites, in both February and early March, and we are in the process of testing the delivery mechanism at both the Canaan Health Centre and the Roxborough Health Centre.”

Mitchell noted that an assimilation exercise is planned for next week while walk-throughs will be conducted on March 22 and 23.

She said Tobago is preparing to receive between 2,000-3,000 of the 33,600 AstraZeneca the country is expected to receive soon, so contact details for the scheduling of appointments to receive the vaccine are ready and will be distributed shortly.

Mitchell stated that persons wishing to make appointments will be able to do so via text, WhatsApp or email as email addresses will be provided.

Additionally, an online registration form will be made available on the TRHA’s Division of Health, Wellness and Family Development website in the not too distant future.

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