Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health and Wellness, Janet Phillips, receives the donation of supplies from PAHO’s Dr. Yitades Gebre while Health Minister, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic, and Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kenneth George, look on. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

No deaths have been found to be linked to COVID-19 vaccines.

This assertion has come from Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) and World Health Organization (WHO) Representative to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Countries, Dr. Yitades Gebre, who said that the WHO is carefully assessing a report out of Europe that persons developed blood clots after being administered the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

He was speaking during the official handover of medical supplies to the Ministry of Health and Wellness this morning.

Dr. Gebre pointed out that over 300 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines (as of March 10, 2021) had been administered since the start of the pandemic.

He added that some countries in the European Union had suspended the use of a specific batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine as a precautionary measure, based on reports of a rare blood coagulation disorder in persons who had received the vaccine from that particular batch.

“This was decided as a precautionary measure while a full investigation is going on. It is important to note that the European Medicine Agency’s position is that vaccine benefits continue to outweigh its risks and the vaccine can continue to be administered while investigations of cases of thromboembolic events are going on.

“WHO has a global advising committee on vaccine safety, and systematically reviews any vaccine safety signals and concerns related to the COVID-19 vaccine. In this regard, WHO is carefully assessing the current report with the AstraZeneca vaccine. As soon as the WHO has gained a full understanding of these events, the findings and any change in the current recommendation will be immediately communicated to the public,” Dr. Gebre stated.

The PAHO/WHO Representative pointed out that vaccination against COVID-19 would not reduce deaths from other causes. He said deaths related to other causes would continue to occur even after people are vaccinated.

He added that in the coming weeks, PAHO would also deliver vaccines through the COVAX facility. However, he noted that “it is inevitable” that there would be supply challenges for COVID-19 vaccines while the organization waited for global manufacturing to reach its capacity.

Dr. Gebre warned that while vaccines did indeed save lives, countries could not rely solely on them to defeat COVID-19.  

He maintained that basic public health measures had to remain the foundation for the response against the pandemic. “This means testing, contact tracing, isolation, supported quarantine, and of course, quality of care is very important,” he stated.

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