Health Ministry Responds to Concern over AstraZeneca

  • 16
  • May

Health Ministry Responds to Concern over AstraZeneca

KINGSTON, Jamaica. Wednesday, May 15, 2024: The Ministry of Health & Wellness has noted the public discourse over the COVID-19 vaccine, AstraZeneca (AZ), following the withdrawal of the marketing authorization as requested by the manufacturer.

The Vaxzevria – COVID-19 Vaccine formulation (ChAdOx1-S [recombinant]), manufactured by AZ was authorized for emergency use during the height of the pandemic. Over 3 billion doses were distributed in over 150 countries globally. Independent studies showed high effectiveness of the AZ vaccine in preventing serious illness and deaths. It is estimated that over 6 million lives were saved in the first year of use of AZ vaccine, which was the only available vaccine in many countries.

The AZ vaccine, however, was replaced by use of mRNA vaccines in many countries as these vaccines became more widely available. The manufacturers did not update the AZ vaccine to target newer strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 and there was further decline in the uptake of the AZ vaccine with the increase in the availability of newer formulations currently in surplus on the global market that protect against emerging strains of SARS-CoV-2.

This decreasing demand has resulted in Vaxzevria no longer being manufactured or supplied. Serum Institute of India which produced the COVISHIELD AZ vaccine, the main product used in Jamaica, stopped manufacturing and supplying doses since December 2021.

Due to its absence from the global market, AZ has not been available for use in Jamaica since 2022. The last shipment of AZ vaccine was received in May 2022 and the last available batch expired in July 2022.

As at May 10, 2024, a total of 1,534,738 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Jamaica. Of this number, approximately 59% were AZ, 40% were Pfizer and less that 1% were SinoPharm, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines.

The Ministry wishes to further advise the public that, in Jamaica, it continues to collect reports on illnesses that have occurred in vaccinated persons, where there is a possibility of relation to the vaccine.

Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS) is a very rare side effect associated with the use of the AZ vaccine. There have been no confirmed cases of TTS in Jamaica. TTS usually occurs within three to 30 days of vaccination.


COVID-19 Vaccines in Stock

Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and SinoPharm vaccines were available for administration in 2023, with stock out of all COVID-19 vaccines in September 2023. The Ministry of Health & Wellness currently has no AZ, Johnson & Johnson, or Sinopharm vaccine doses remaining in stock.

As at May 8, 2024, there were 17,300 doses of Pfizer vaccine in stock at central stores.

The benefit of administering COVID vaccines, especially to high-risk groups, continues to outweigh the risks and the World Health Organization (WHO) continues to recommend vaccination of high-risk groups (elderly, persons with comorbidities, health workers, pregnant women) to protect against severe outcomes using any available vaccine.