FRANCISTOWN:In the midst of the current Covid-19 pandemic, Botswana Medicines Regulatory Authority (BOMRA) is worried that some of its stakeholders do not report medical side effects that are experienced after vaccinations or any other medical drug use.
The stakeholders include among others health care professionals, national immunization staff, patients and their care takers as well as families.
Covid-19 vaccines that have already been rolled out to the public include, Sinovac, Pfizer, Astrazaneca and Johnson and Johnson.
Medical side effects are caused by medical errors which can have implications on the patient’s health. These errors can happen from various stages in medication use among others, ordering, prescription, dispensing and even administration.
Given the current world wide Covid- 19 pandemic, BOMRA found it fit to hold a campaign during this year’s annual World Medicine Safety Week commemoration event by sensitizing the public in Francistown on the importance of reporting medical drug reactions or side effects. This is mainly due to the fact that even Covid 19 vaccines can have side effects after immunization. The campaign was premised on reporting suspected side effects following Covid 19 vaccinations.
Addressing participants at the campaign in Francistown recently, the Director of Pharmacovigilance and Clinical trials at BOMRA Dr Parthasarathi Gurumurthy emphasized that vaccines are the best way to protect individuals against infectious diseases and have already saved millions of lives. Like all medicines, he said side effects can happen due to vaccinations. He said reporting suspected side effects can help identify new adverse reactions and help provide more information about the known effects.
“Reporting is very important, so the advice to everyone is to not delay reporting and not wait for someone else to report their suspicions. Healthcare professionals administering vaccines are especially encouraged to discuss side effects with patients and to be vigilant for new or rare suspected side effects,” he said.
Dr Gurumurthy revealed that BOMRA took over vaccine safety surveillance in March 2021 from the Ministry of Health and Wellness EPI(Expanded Programme on Immunization) programme. He said since then BOMRA has resuscitated the national AEFI(Adverse Event Following Immunization) committee which is a committee of experts in the fields of medicine and pharmacology. The independent committee is responsible for investigation and assessment of serious adverse events. It then communicates its findings to the Ministry of Health and Wellness, BOMRA, general public and any other stakeholder.
In a brief interview with Sunday Standard on the sidelines of the campaign, Dr Gurumurthy said it is important to report suspected medical side effects as this helps to reduce health risks and bolsters the pharmacovigilance system.
“The issue of failure to report medical or drug side effects is a global phenomenon. It is not only about vaccines but all medicines. I can only say maybe a maximum of 10 percent is actually reported, especially by those patients who experience severe reactions. Other discomforts do not get reported at all. This is a universal recognized problem that is why we are engaging our stakeholders to improve the reporting rate,” he said.
BOMRA held the World Medicines Safety Commemoration week in collaboration with Nyangabwe Referral Hospital and the Greater Francistown (DHMT) District Health Management Team.
BOMRA was established through the Medicines and Related Substances Act of 2013 and part of its mandate to is to ensure that all medicines and related substances used in Botswana are in conformity with established criteria of quality, safety and efficacy, upholding standards for the regulatory functions value chain and ensure adherence to best practice.