As South Africa ramps up its efforts to vaccinate the population, Mbalenhle Memela, 37, gets her jab from sister Jabu Khumalo at Moses Mabhida stadium vaccination site in Durban. Picture: Zanele Zulu/African News Agency (ANA)
As South Africa ramps up its efforts to vaccinate the population, Mbalenhle Memela, 37, gets her jab from sister Jabu Khumalo at Moses Mabhida stadium vaccination site in Durban. Picture: Zanele Zulu/African News Agency (ANA)

Experts say Covid vaccines not responsible for deaths after inoculation

By Lethu Nxumalo Time of article published Aug 1, 2021

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Durban - Families who have lost their loved ones shortly after they took the Covid-19 vaccine were adamant that the injection had resulted in their deaths. However, experts have refuted the claims, saying there was no correlation.

Three families who spoke to the Sunday Tribune said their relatives had taken the Pfizer vaccine shortly before they died.

Ntombeziningi Dlamini, 60, from Umlazi was vaccinated at the Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital in late June.

Her son, Mzomuhle Shezi, said two days later she started having side effects which included dizziness, fatigue and loss of appetite.

Shezi, who lived and worked in Empangeni, said his mother, who was diabetic, was unwell for a few days before she died on July 9.

“She called to let me know that she was unwell, but had not gone to the doctor. I arranged for a friend to take her Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital, and I was going to meet them there.

“We put her on a wheelchair, but when the doctor assessed her, he broke the news to us that she was no longer alive. I believe that the vaccine killed her; she was never herself after her first jab.”

Shezi said his mother’s death had raised many questions and “there was not much information shared by the government on the available vaccines”.

“I don’t know how to deal with her death, I am struggling. She lived with my children and now they have no one. I hate this vaccine and I will no longer vaccinate,” he said. “The doctor at the hospital could not write down her cause of death. He instead asked me what her ailments were and he wrote what I shared with him.”

Emma Modise, 80, from Ga-Rankuwa, who was on treatment for high blood pressure and diabetes, took her second dose of the Pfizer vaccine on July 16 at a community centre together with her 90-year-old husband, who has the same medical conditions.

Her granddaughter, Mathapelo Modise, said the following day she was rushed to the hospital after complaining of feeling cold, but yet was sweating excessively. She died on July 20.

Modise said her grandmother did not complain of any complications before her second jab, but a few days after her passing, they were told that she had tested positive for Covid-19.

“We suspect that those results came because she took the vaccine, as before then she was fine and active. She had been running a sewing project and her colleagues testified that she had never shown any signs of weakness or complained about anything,” Modise said.

South Africa - Durban - 30 July 2021 - As South Africa ramps up its efforts to vaccinate the population,Kohvani Kumodhini,56,at Moses Mabhida stadium gets her jab from doctor Ujhir Baijoo.Picture:Zanele Zulu/African News Agency (ANA)

Victoria Mojuto said she took her mother, 69, who had high blood pressure and arthritis, and her father, 84, to be vaccinated at the Momentum Metropolitan’s vaccination centre in Centurion, Johannesburg, on June 23.

When they returned home her mother was well, but days after being vaccinated, they both started showing side effects. Her mother developed flu-like symptoms and her father had stomach cramps.

“My mother was treating her symptoms and was recovering. However, she still displayed Covid-19 symptoms, coughing, loss of smell and appetite, but she assured us that she was getting better,” she said.

“On July 3 she asked my father to run a bath for her and said she was feeling hot. She also asked for a glass of water, which she put next to her on the pedestal. She died in her sleep. A post-mortem was not conducted as she was treated as a Covid-19 patient.”

Mojuto said that her father was not taking her death well, as they had been married for 50 years.

“It’s like a bad dream, mom was our strength and our pillar. It’s not easy,” she said. “There is now a fear to vaccinate in our family and I doubt that any of us will. But we are not the only family; we had a neighbour who was in his 70’s dying under the same circumstances.”

But experts have attempted to allay the fears, saying the deaths were not related to taking the vaccine.

Professor Hannelie Meyer, head of the South African Vaccination and Immunisation Centre at the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University in Ga-Rankuwa, explained that to date, among the deaths following Covid-19 vaccination that had been fully investigated, none were related to any of the vaccines used in the country.

She said that detailed information on all adverse events following immunisation for Covid-19 would be made available within the next month.

Meyer told the Sunday Tribune that investigations were currently being conducted by multi-disciplinary surveillance teams from the department of health within the districts. Once completed, cases were submitted to the National Department of Health, where verification of all processes occurred.

Thereafter, causality assessment is done by the National Immunisation Safety Expert Committee (NISEC), an independent ministerial advisory committee consisting of a group of medical experts, and they provide feedback to the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) and the National Department of Health.

“Causality assessment is done to determine the likelihood that the event might have been caused by the vaccine received, or whether it occurred by chance, coincidentally following the time of vaccination,” she said.

“Causality assessment can only be conducted if all required information about a case is available. Therefore, it is essential that these investigations must be done very thoroughly, and that detailed information is collected. In the case of death, an autopsy or post-mortem examination must be done.”

Meyer stated that the vast majority of vaccinated people who died had more than one pre-existing medical condition, and in some instances these conditions were not well controlled.

“These people were therefore at risk of dying from their pre-existing medical condition, regardless of being vaccinated or not, hence death occurred coincidentally after being vaccinated.”

She listed examples of pre-existing medical conditions as inclusive of diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, ischemic heart disease, lung disease and tuberculosis. She said there were also deaths from Covid-19 at the time of vaccination, or persons contracted the virus shortly after being vaccinated, and before an adequate immune response to provide protection had mounted.

She lamented exposure to misinformation on social media, saying people trusted the misinformation more than their government.

“South Africans are not unique in thinking that events following immunisation means that the event was caused by immunisation. This is a common mistake,” she said. “Never share misinformation you receive on social media or on any other channels, not even with an added message disagreeing with the post. Instead, respond to the sender with the message from the National Department of Health about spreading fake news being a criminal offence.

“Despite all our efforts, misinformation will continue to be spread, so we should all be diligent and make sure we access reliable information and are truly informed. Also, we must all make an effort to proactively spread trusted information, so that we can ‘vaccinate‘ the public against misinformation.”

Dr Katlego Mothudi, managing director of the Board of Healthcare Funders (BHF), said vaccines had a long and proven track record in containing the spread of diseases, and in certain instances have contributed to the total eradication of a number of diseases, such as smallpox and polio. He argued that it should not be any different with the Covid-19 vaccine.

“What we need is a lot of consumer education on the importance and impact that vaccines can have in improving the current situation. If we do not vaccinate enough people at a specific rate, we run the risk of not reaching herd immunity, which means our return to a normal life and economic activity will also be hampered. Without herd immunity, we will forever be required to go into lockdowns and defer living our lives normally.”

Dr Joana Ansong, health promotion officer at the World Health Organisation (WHO) shared that data collected regularly since March 2021 in 20 African countries show that false claims around Covid-19 vaccines were the most widespread. He said other contributing factors fuelling “infodemic” were rooted in religious beliefs.

“There also seems to be a growing and worrying false sense of security among the public after watching recent European football games with stadiums filled with cheering fans. Yet, many European countries have vaccinated high numbers of their people, unlike here in Africa.”

In South Africa, at least 7.3 million vaccine doses have been received, with more than 2.84 million people having been fully vaccinated.

Sunday Tribune

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