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What you need to know about the Two- brands of Covid-19 vaccines In Liberia

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In March 2021, Liberia received  96,000  COVID-19 dosages vaccine shipped via the COVAX initiative, a partnership between CEPI, Gavi, UNICEF and WHO.

The arrival of the vaccines in Liberia is part of the historic step towards achieving the goal of equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally, in what will be the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history.

This delivery was part of the first wave of shipments that will continue to different countries in the coming days and weeks.

So far, the Liberian government says it has given out 880 Doses and 14.9 are fully vaccinated since it kicked off its nationwide vaccination programme.

Recently, the government also received the second Shipment of 96,000 doses of AstraZeneca Vaccine donated by the French Government.

On August 2021 and was received by Minister of Health, Wilhemina Jallah and the US Ambassador, UNICEF officials on behalf of Liberia at the Roberts International Airport. This was followed by additional 302,400 doses of COVID-19 vaccines donated by the United States of America to help the country battle the third wave of infections

What did the Ministry of Health say?

The MOH said the contribution from the French government gives additional strength to Liberia’s fight against COVID-19. 

Together with the full new batch, the overall amount of the vaccines received through COVAX reached 494,400 doses as 96,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine and 302,400 doses of Johnson and Johnson were received earlier. 

What are the 2 brands of vaccines? 

Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine 

The Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine is a viral vector vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical company and given by intramuscular injection. According to Medical News Today, the viral vector vaccine contains the gene that encodes for the spike protein on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and once delivered to the cells, the gene is transcribed, prompting our cells to make the spike protein.

It is the presence of the protein that triggers the body’s immune system to produce antibodies to fight against the spike protein, which prepares the body to fight against Covid-19 should it enter the body. The vaccine has a shelf life of six months stored in a refrigerator between 2 to 8°C and once removed from the fridge, maybe stored between 2 to 25°C for up to six hours. 

Johnson and Johnson vaccine

Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine is the second vaccine to be granted emergency use authorization by the US Food and Drugs Administration after Pfizer and Moderna. Unlike Pfizer and Moderna however, the Johnson and Johnson, like Oxford-Astrazeneca are viral vector vaccines that use a modified, harmless version of a different virus as a vector, or carrier, to deliver immunity instructions to cells in the body. The body then follows those instructions to build an immune response to the intended virus (in this case, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.)

Between Oxford-AstraZeneca, and Johnson and Johnson

There are few differences between the J & J and AstraZeneca which are the two vaccines that have been deployed to Liberia. All two have been granted emergency use authorization by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as well as approved for use in Liberia by the Ministry of Health.

Oxford-AstraZeneca was the first vaccine to be administered in Liberia and according to a report by the BBC, it is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus (known as an adenovirus) from chimpanzees and has been modified to contain genetic material shared by the coronavirus – although it can’t cause the illness.

 The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires storage at 35.6 to 46.4 degrees F. According to the company, the vaccine is estimated to remain stable for two years at -4°F (-20°C) and a maximum of three months at routine refrigeration at temperatures of 36-46°F (2 to 8°C).

Speaking on the vaccine, Minister Jallah said the AstraZeneca vaccine from the French government gives additional strength to Liberia’s fight against COVID-19.  

 “All the vaccines received by the government – (AstraZeneca and Janssen’s Johnson and Johnson) are safe therefore, all who are yet to receive the vaccine should do so” Dr. Jallah added.

Together with the full new batch, the overall amount of the vaccines received through COVAX reached 494,400 doses as 96,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine and 302,400 doses of Johnson and Johnson were received earlier.

COVAX is co-led by GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), working in partnership with UNICEF as well as the World Bank, civil society organizations, manufacturers, and others.

The Janssen Vaccines was developed in Leiden, Netherlands, and its Belgian parent company Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of American company Johnson & Johnson.

It is a viral vector vaccine based on a human adenovirus that has been modified to contain the gene for making the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. The body’s immune system responds to this spike protein to produce antibodies. The vaccine requires only one dose and does not need to be stored frozen.

Clinical trials for the vaccine were started in June 2020, with Phase III trials involving around 43,000 people. On 29 January 2021, Janssen announced that 28 days after a completed vaccination, the vaccine was 66% effective in a one-dose regimen in preventing symptomatic COVID-19, with an 85% efficacy in preventing severe COVID-19, and 100% efficacy in preventing hospitalization or death caused by the disease.

The vaccine has been granted by the US Food and Drug Administration, the European Medicines Agency (EMA and the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

 What Liberian Expert Says 

Though there are concerns over the different brands of Covid-19 vaccines imported into the country, Liberia health experts have dispelled fears over the two brands, stating the two vaccines are approved.

 Dr. Dougbeh Nyan assured Liberians that the COVID-19 vaccines, regardless of brand, as long as they have been approved by WHO, provide adequate protection against the disease.

Dr. Nyan said, “Yes, the people should take the COVID-19 vaccines. I have consistently advised citizens to take any of the COVID-19 vaccines that are available in Liberia and the rest of Africa because this will protect lives and keep the virus from being transmitted to other people. 

“And, once we can stop (by vaccination) the virus from being transmitted, then we would have succeeded in preventing the virus from changing portion of its genes (what we called “mutation”).”

Dr. Nyan furthers that these mutations are the cause of the variants such as the highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 that is responsible for the 3rd wave of infections seen in Liberia and the world. 

“Besides, I will continue to advise citizens to wear their masks, sanitize or wash their hands, and continue to avoid gathering in large crowds. Always follow what I termed as the Four Commandments of COVID-19 Prevention. 

“That is, Thou Shall Take Your COVID-19 Vaccine, Thou Shall Wear Your Mask; Thou Shall Wash and Sanitize Your Hands; and, Thou Shall Keep Your Distance. Importantly, the government needs to continue the Community and Public Vaccination Awareness Campaign initiated by my team in April and May of 2021.”

He encouraged parents to have their eligible children vaccinated once the vaccine becomes available. 

Dr. Jallah at the Ministry of Information’s regular press briefing on Thursday, July 29, 2021, said that those who are having weddings, church services and other gatherings should abide by the health protocols that were instituted by the Incident Management System (IMS).

“We are seeing good news in the Covid-19 fight. Two days in the roll, we had no positive case,” Dr. Jallah disclosed.

She added: “We are begging you, we want this thing to finish. Our recovery rate is very good. All of this good news I’m telling you does not mean you must put down your masks. We want you to wear it always.”

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