Why Norway donated banned Covid-19 vaccines to Uganda – Daily Monitor

Left to right: Norwegian Chief of Mission, Mr Arne Haug, National Medical Stores (NMS) board chair, Dr Christine Ondoa, Minister of Health Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, and Chinese Ambassador Zhang Lizhong receive the 586,080 Covid-19 vaccines at NMS offices in Entebbe on July 31. PHOTO/PAUL Adude
The embassy says although Norway discontinued the roll out of AstraZeneca vaccines, it still considers the vaccine to be effective.
The Norwegian government has explained why it donated 286,080 doses of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to Uganda.
This comes after blacklash from some members of the public that Norway was donating vaccines whose use had been suspended in their country.
Norway suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine on March 11 when some of its youth suffered a combination of blood clots, bleeding and a low platelet count after being immunised.
But  the Norwegian embassy said in a few countries, including in Norway, where the incidence of Covid-19 has been relatively low and stable, it was decided that other vaccines had better risk benefit profile and would be used in the national vaccination programme.
The embassy responded to Daily Monitor after consultations with relevant health authorities in Norway.
Still effective
The embassy explained that Norway decided to discontinue the roll out of AstraZeneca vaccines, but still considers the vaccine to be effective and have an appropriate safety profile and risk benefit ratio in most contexts, in line with World Health Organisation (WHO), COVAX and EMA recommendations. 
“AstraZeneca vaccines have been the major vaccines offered through the COVAX Facility due to its estimated early availability and also its cost-effectiveness and profile when it comes to cold-chain requirements allowing for normal fridge storage. The AstraZeneca vaccine is demonstrated to be effective, including also against the new Delta variant,” Norwegian embassy stated in an interview with this newspaper.
The response further reads: “It has wide regulatory approval and use. However, some cases of serious adverse events made health authorities reexamine the risk benefit of the AstraZeneca vaccine. In general, both regulators and other health authorities in most countries concluded that benefits still outweighed harm, even though some countries decided to use AZ vaccines primarily in higher age groups with higher risks of severe Covid-19 disease.”
Norway is one of the European countries that have suspended the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine, although most have since resumed its use on the advice of the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
Asked why donation was made at the end of last month yet vaccines are due to expire on September 30, the COVAX facility said: “In many cases it depends on absorptive capacity and urgent need for second doses. In the case of Uganda, the doses were allocated as soon as we were made aware of them, delivery depends on AZ making the doses available, UNICEF scheduling logistics, and Uganda preparing the necessary documents for POs to be issued.”
Dr Alfred Driwale the programme manager for Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunisation (UNEPI), said they had not received reports on the side effects such blood clots in Uganda.
He said the vaccine is safe and every country has its own choice depending on circumstances
 “They asked whether we are ready to receive the vaccines and we said yes, give us quantities that we will be able to use in record time. Had we known the demand is going to be much more at the time we were working on papers (paper work), we would have asked for more,” Dr Driwale said.
Uganda has registered a cumulative of 96,067 Covid-19 cases with 92,549 recoveries and 2,821 deaths. At least 1,155,265 doses of AstraZeneca have been administered.
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