Claim: Two unverified claims about the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine
Researched by Gifty Tracy Aminu
A Tiktok video promoting unverified claims about the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine (now Vaxzevria) is being widely circulated on WhatsApp with the aim of misleading the unsuspecting public from being vaccinated.
The more than two minutes long video, which has been tagged as “forwarded many times” by WhatsApp, partly captures news reports by DW News and BBC seemingly to confirm the unfounded narrative being promoted in the video.
A man speaking in an indigenous Ghanaian Language, Twi and who identifies himself in the video as Kay Blessing claims that:
“The AstraZeneca vaccine which Ghanaians are anxiously injecting is the same vaccine suspended by France, Germany, Italy, and Netherland and many other European countries. They have recorded many side effects, which is why they have suspended it. They know the vaccines are produced for Africans and meant to kill Africans.”
The fact-check report seeks to verify two claims.
- Whether the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has been suspended in some parts of Europe.
- Whether COVID-19 vaccines were produced to kill Africans.
On March 15, 2021, Germany suspended coronavirus vaccinations with AstraZeneca vaccines.
“Following new reports of cerebral vein thrombosis in connection with the vaccination in Germany and Europe, the Paul Ehrlich Institute considers further investigations to be necessary.” a Tweet from Germany’s Federal Ministry of Health said.
Aufgrund einer aktuellen Empfehlung des Paul-Ehrlich-Instituts setzt die Bundesregierung die Corona-Impfungen mit #AstraZeneca vorsorglich aus. 1/3
— BMG (@BMG_Bund) March 15, 2021
Subsequently, other European countries including Italy, Spain, Portugal, Slovenia, Denmark, Ireland, Thailand, the Netherlands, Norway, Iceland, and Congo in Africa, suspended the use of the vaccine.
A scientific assessment by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) later concluded that the overall benefits of the vaccine in preventing COVID-19 outweigh the risks of side effects – this is after EMA’s safety committee said unusual blood clots with low blood platelets be listed as very rare side effects of Vaxzevria (formerly COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca).
The Executive Director of the European Medicines Agency, Emer Cooker on March 18, 2021, at a press conference, said “this is a safe and effective vaccine. Its benefits in protecting people from COVID-19 with the associated risks of death and hospitalisation outweigh the possible risks.”
“The vaccine is not associated with an increase in the overall risk of thromboembolic events or blood clots,” she stated following a review by the expert committee of medicine, the Pharmacovigilance and risk assessment committee on cases of blood clots in people vaccinated with AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine.
Shortly after the suspension, countries across the European Union resumed using AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine while admitting having to face the hurdle of damage to public trust.
The claim is rated MISLEADING.
Like all vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines go through a rigorous, multi-stage testing process, including large clinical trials that involve tens of thousands of people. These trials are specifically designed to identify any safety concerns.
Immunization currently prevents 2-3 million deaths every year from diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, influenza, and measles and is considered a cost-effective public health intervention.
“Vaccine safety is one of the highest priorities, and we’re working closely with national authorities to develop and implement standards to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective,” the Africa Infodemic Response Alliance secretariat of the WHO told GhanaFact.
COVID-19 vaccines are crucial tools in the pandemic response and protect against severe disease and death. “Vaccines provide at least some protection from infection and transmission, but not as much as the protection they provide against serious illness and death.” The WHO has stated.
A similar claim suggesting that COVID-19 vaccines were produced to kill Africans has been debunked by GhanaFact (here).
The claim is rated FALSE.