Kiev, March 16 (AFP/APP):Ukraine’s inoculation drive has already been plagued by problems and now faces an alarming new roadblock: vaccine scepticism, fuelled by reports of side effects from AstraZeneca’s jab.
Even hospital workers are not immune to the jitters.
“Out of 40 people who initially wanted to be vaccinated, only 10 still do,” says Dr Yuriy Shylenko of his colleagues at hospital Number Five in the capital Kiev.
“They want to be vaccinated,” he says. “But they want to know what will happen first, and what the result will be.”
Ukraine, one of Europe’s poorest countries, struggled at first to secure any doses at all for its population of around 40 million, and only launched a vaccination drive in February, far behind its neighbours.
But now that health workers are finally administering jabs, with AstraZeneca the only available vaccine, recent concerns over possible side effects are merging with general anti-vaccination sentiment and further derailing a stunted rollout.
Germany, France, Italy and several other countries have temporarily paused use of AstraZeneca — developed alongside Oxford University — over blood clotting fears.
The company and Oxford have both said there is no link between their vaccine and blood clotting.
The EU’s medicines regulator also said Tuesday that it remained “firmly convinced” of the benefits of the AstraZeneca jab, while the World Health Organization is due to meet this week to review its safety.
But Ukraine is heavily reliant on its 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca marketed under the name Covishield and produced in India.
Pervasive scepticism in the former Soviet country is now mingling with concerns over AstraZeneca as well as criticism on social media of Covishield for being produced in India rather than the West.
This combination means Ukrainians are rebuffing the chance to be inoculated.
Surgeon Sergiy Svyrydovsky had planned to be vaccinated but changed his mind after hearing about side effects and seeing the international community’s response.
“It is not for nothing that seven countries have suspended vaccination,” he told AFP.
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