Uganda undertaking study to test effectiveness of AstraZeneca vaccine

COVID-19 vaccine uptake on the rise in Gulu amidst spike in new infections
Residents of Gulu are embracing the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Kampala, Uganda | URN | The Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) is undertaking a study to research the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines among vaccinated people.

Uganda in its first phase of vaccination decided to use the AstraZeneca vaccine due to its low price and easy storage. However, due to cases of infections among vaccinated persons, the efficacy of the vaccine to protect against severe disease, hospitalization and also death, it has come under scrutiny.

As such, UVRI is now undertaking a study to determine the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the Ugandan population.

Prof Pontiano Kaleebu, the executive director of UVRI says the study is important to know whether Ugandans are gaining anything from the vaccines especially since trials were not carried out in the country.

Prof Kaleebu says preliminary findings from studies carried out among small groups of people show that the vaccine is effective.

According to Prof Kaleebu, the vaccine studies will later be carried out among bigger numbers of the population.

The study comes at a time when there are several reports that persons who have been vaccinated using AstraZeneca have developed severe forms of the disease with some succumbing to the virus.

Dr Alfred Driwale, the programme manager of the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization says from what they have seen, the drug is able to prevent deaths and even decrease the rate of infections among vaccinated populations.

“There has been a lot of misinformation to try and discredit the use of this vaccine but what science is telling us is that the vaccine works and it does not lead to death as some reports say,” Dr Driwale said. In countries like the UK, the vaccine has shown to be able to reduce the rate of infections. It is safe and effective,” Dr Driwale said.

According to the World Health Organisation, AstraZeneca had a 67 percent efficacy in preventing severe disease or death among persons infected with the delta variant.

Read Also: Uganda to stick with AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine despite blood clot risk

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Africa region manager says the vaccine is effective.

“This efficacy is better than nothing,” she said. “Some African countries are not willing to use some vaccines due to reduced efficacy but for vaccines like AstraZeneca, this is not bad. More vaccination will reduce the rate at which transmission of the disease is carried out.”

Dr Richard Mihigo, the head of the Immunization and Vaccines Development Programme at the WHO says other larger vaccine effective studies show that AstraZeneca vaccine has a good performance when it comes to preventing severe disease and hospitalisation.