Monitoring, managing safety concerns critical in vaccine administration- Epidemiologist

Attorney General Chikosa Silungwe gets his COVID-19 jab

In light of the safety concerns surrounding the administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine, Dr. Titus Divala has dared those with pharmaceutical development expertise to simplify messages on the rare blood clots in a way which does not bring fears and alarm a lay person.

Speaking exclusively with Kulinji.com, the epidemiologist described the blood clotting reports as a very important element for the public to know.

He has since challenged the government and non- governmental players to embrace a proactive approach in as far as relaying messages on the vaccine is concerned.

Divala advised authorities on the need to be ahead of the information and actively monitor what is on the ground in helping the public understand better so as to boost the vaccine’s acceptability levels in Malawi.

As of 12th April, 212, 615 people have been vaccinated against the 512,000 doses the country received with some of the doses due to expire this week.

This is coupled with reports of rare blood clots following its administration particularly in developed nations; with some countries halting it limiting it only to those over 55 years.

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Divala: Packaging of the messages not friendly to the lay person

The health expert faulted the packaging of the messaging which he noted is not easily understood by the ordinary person.

“Unfortunately they are coming in poorly packaged formats, very difficult and alarming for lay people. People with expertise in pharmaceutical development will quickly digest and tell that there is no issue here and we just need to intensify monitoring, but a non expert will be shocked and alarmed”.

“Information channels need to go deep into local urban and rural communities. Radio and TV will not be enough, but empowering influential members of the local community will quench the information thirst and anxiety more adequately,” added the medical practitioner.

However, Divala observed that what is happening is not unusual as it is expected and happens with almost all drugs.

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Hand-washing has become commonplace in the wake of COVID-19

“Most common safety concerns are addressed via four stages of non-human and human research while rare ones emerge in a period when the product is being given to a large population.

“Monitoring and managing these is critical and standard practice for all drugs. For example in my recent research, we discovered some new side effects for chloroquine, imagine in this day after ages of use,” he noted.

Divala is a recipient of the Helse Nord Research Fellowship Award and Commonwealth Scholarship for doctoral studies registered in Infectious Disease Epidemiology Department at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine with research hosted by the University of Malawi.