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Al-Shabaab issues warning against AstraZeneca vaccine

Wednesday March 31, 2021

SOURCE: Gavi Vaccine Alliance

Mogadishu (HOL) - Al-Shabab, the Al-Qaeda-linked militant insurgency group based in Somalia, has warned Somalis not to take the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine, saying that "its harms far outweigh its alleged benefits."

In a press release distributed through its media affiliates, the group cited a mid-march suspension of the vaccine by a dozen European countries following concerns the shot may be linked to rare blood clots. Some of the patients died.

"Do now allow your children and family members to be used as guinea pigs in the race to develop a potent vaccine for the coronavirus pandemic. Do not allow your family to be used as subjects in the experimentation of the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine at a time when a countless number of people have died, and hundreds of others have developed severe adverse reactions, including the formation of blood clots, as a result of administering the vaccine."

The AstraZeneca vaccine is the only one available in Somalia and many other African countries.

Despite mounting health concerns surrounding the jab, the UK did not pause or limit the shot's use.

Canada has announced this week that it will only administer the vaccine to residents 55 and over as a precautionary measure. Germany has followed suit on Tuesday with a similar policy, saying that it will restrict the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to those under the age of 60.

The group said that the western European countries are far better equipped to detect the vaccine's deficiencies than "the apostate Somali regime."

Somalia launched its COVID-19 roll-out just over two weeks ago after it received 300,00 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine through the World Health Organization's global vaccine-sharing program, COVAX.

Boxes of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and provided through the global COVAX initiative arrive at the airport in Mogadishu, Somalia, March 15, 2021.

Somalia's federal government significantly welcomed the delivery as it was grappling with a crippling resurgence of the virus. Among the first to take the vaccine were the Minister of Health and President Farmajo, who said he was taking the vaccine to endorse its safety.

On Monday, the nation's health ministry has announced dozens of vaccination sites in Mogadishu and has urged residents to register for the jab.

Somalia's Minister of Health Fawsiyo Abikar Nur told Parliament  on Wednesday morning that an undisclosed number of health workers have refused to take the COVI-19 vaccine.

She added that frontline health care workers who refuse to take the vaccine would not be able to work.

Al-Shabaab has been waging a deadly militant insurgency against Somalia since 2011, when it was ousted from the capital and major population centres by an African Union–led military campaign. Al-Shabab's leadership declared allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2012. Since then, it has been engaged in asymmetrical warfare relying primarily on suicide-bombers, hit-and-run attacks, and assassinations.

The militant group announced that it opened a COVID-19 treatment centre in Jilib, a town it controls 380km south of Mogadishu. At the time, it quoted international health authorities and acknowledged the pandemic was real. Despite this, the group has called on its supporters to reject containment and social distancing measures put in place by the federal government.

Al-Shabaab has continued to launch attacks despite the COVID-19 pandemic killing government officials, security officials and civilians at an accelerated pace.

Somalia is in the throes of its second, much larger wave of the virus. As of Tuesday, Somalia has reported 11,292 cases of COVID-19, with 1,855 coming in the last two weeks alone. The virus has killed 521 people - including a former head of state, several music legends, a scientist and a clan chief - since the onset of the pandemic. In just two months, Somalia's death toll jumped 300% from 130 to a whopping 521.


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