By: R. Joyclyn Wea
MONROVIA-The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was officially launched at the Paynesville Town Hall on Thursday where stakeholders in the health sector called on Liberians and foreign residents to take advantage of the jabs in an effort to eliminate the Covid-19 menace from the country.
The arrival of the 302,400 doses of J&J vaccine on July 25 bring to two the number of coronavirus vaccines regimens imported to prepare the country against a virus that has been wreaking havoc for the past few weeks. The India patented AstraZeneca vaccine was the first with 95,000 of the 96,000 doses imported already administered.
However, the J&J donation, made possible through the assistance of the American government as part of its global efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, came amid a stern warning from Health Minister, Wilhemina Jallah is against mixing/matching the two different vaccines.
The new vaccine is a one-dose vaccine, Minister Jallah said and is available for those who did not take the AstraZeneca jabs.
“People should not do multiple vaccinations or mix-matching of Covid-19 vaccines. Those who have taken the AstraZeneca and not eligible to take the J&J. Anyone who does that will be doing so at his or her own risk,” the minister, who heads the Covid-19 Incident Management System (IMS), said at a press conference prior to the launch of the J&J vaccine launch.
A total of 86,288 persons received the first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, prior to the arrival of the US-made Covid-19 regimen, but only 9,579 received the second dose, as per the IMS report. `
Dr. Jallah cautioned those who received their first doze of the AstraZeneca vaccine to exercise patience and wait for their second doses, which is expected in the country this month.
“To those waiting for the second dose of Asthenia, we have an assurance that by July 31, 2021, or the first week of August we will be receiving the 96,000 doses to be able to meet the needs of those who are waiting,” she said.
“Any attempt for anyone to trick health practitioners to take the J&J would be doing so at his/her detriment.” “There will be no mixing of vaccine, therefore, only those who have not taken any form of a vaccine should go for the J&J vaccine.”
The call against multiple vaccinations was also echoed by the IMS Risk Communication pillar head, Chester Smith. “We don’t want those who have taken the AstraZeneca vaccine to take the J&J. During so, we believe, will be dangerous,” Smith said in a release last month.
Minister Jallah, however, failed to state the consequences of mixing different regimens of Covid-19 vaccines, but noted that a study is still underway to establish the effect mixing the vaccines would have on people. “But in the absence of that, it is advisable that people do away with such,” she stated.
However, GAVI, a public-private global health partnership with the goal of increasing access to immunization worldwide, thinks otherwise.
The Vaccine Alliance said on its website that mixing vaccines products could be a good idea for many reasons.
“Supply bottlenecks have led to shortages in several countries, so being able to mix vaccines from different manufacturers may reduce the pressure on vaccine supply,”
Moreover, there is some evidence to suggest that it could also potentially lead to a stronger immune response compared to two doses of the same vaccine, the group, who is co-leading COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) accelerator, noted.
“Some countries are planning to mix vaccines because of supply shortages or concerns over rare side effects of some products,” it said.
Gavi role involves coordinating the COVAX facility, a global risk-sharing mechanism for pooled procurement and equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines.
Some global health experts are of the thought that by mixing and matching vaccines that use different platforms, people may be able to get broader protection against the coronavirus and its new variants, especially the Delta variant.
Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Georgetown University received a booster shot of Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine in late June, two months after she got Johnson & Johnson’s single dose, CNBC, a popular US media out reported recently.
Researchers who conducted a study in Spain also found that vaccinating people with both the Oxford–AstraZeneca and Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines produce a potent immune response against the virus SARS-CoV-2.
People in the West are being advised to take advantage of multiple vaccinations.
It could be recalled German Chancellor Angela Merkel received Moderna’s shot in June after getting AstraZeneca’s in April, while Italy is also allowing those under the age of 60 who received the first dose of AstraZeneca’s vaccine to get a different shot when they get their second dose.
South Korea said last month it would allow some 760,000 people to get different jabs because of shipment delays there.
Meanwhile, many anxious await the health ministry and the IMS to conclude its study on the effects that mixing-matching of vaccines would have on the people.
This story was produced with support from Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), through its Mobilizing Media in the Fight Against COVID-19 in partnership with Front Page Africa.