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Consult your doctor before Covid jab, asthmatics told

Chakaya says although the jab cannot harm people, it can trigger attacks in people with poorly controlled asthma.

In Summary

• Out of 100 people in Kenya who have asthma, one or two have difficult to control asthma.

• Dr Chakaya said all the Covid-19 vaccines underwent all the clinical trials and were even tested on people with lung disease.

Asthmatic patients should consult their doctors before taking the Covid-19 vaccine, chest specialist and pulmonologist Jeremiah Chakaya has advised. https://bit.ly/3mbikqe

Dr Jeremiah Chakaya during an interview at his Hurlingham office on September 23, 2021.
Dr Jeremiah Chakaya during an interview at his Hurlingham office on September 23, 2021.
Image: MARGARET WANIRU

Asthmatic patients should consult their doctors before taking the Covid-19 vaccine, chest specialist and pulmonologist Jeremiah Chakaya has advised.

He said although the jab cannot harm people, it can trigger attacks in people with poorly controlled asthma.

“It is safer to contact your doctor before going to get the vaccine,” he said during an interview with the Star on Friday.

“It’s important for the doctor to characterise you in a group, meaning the doctor will be able to follow you up. If you have poorly controlled asthma, when the vaccine is introduced to the body, an asthma attack can be triggered,” he said.

“Out of 100 people in Kenya who have asthma, one or two have difficult-to-control asthma.”

After a visit to a doctor, a couple of tests such as spirometry, lung volume test, gas diffusion test and exercise stress are done to confirm if the lungs are functioning properly.

“If the medicine that one is using doesn’t give them any side or adverse effects, we can also say that asthma has been controlled since the attacks will be minimal or have no triggers,” Dr Chakaya said.

He said all the Covid-19 vaccines underwent all the clinical trials and were even tested on people with lung disease.

“The lungs are the most affected by the virus, it would not have made any sense to exclude people with pre-existing respiratory diseases and those are the ones that have severe symptoms if they get infected with the virus,” he said.

The ventolin inhaler for asthma treatment, donated to health centres and hospitals by the Kenya Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases on January 2013.
The ventolin inhaler for asthma treatment, donated to health centres and hospitals by the Kenya Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases on January 2013.
Image: JACK OWUOR

Chakaya added that people with asthma should not worry about worsening conditions after the jab, especially if their asthma is well controlled, since the risk for severe symptoms is minimal.

He said the symptoms experienced after vaccination mimic the natural infection, which is why most people have headache, fever and other symptoms.

“People need to understand what happens with the Covid-19 vaccine. Once you are vaccinated, your body is challenged by components in the vaccine to induce a defense response which is meant to last for a certain period of time.”

Dr Chakaya said a study done 20 years ago estimated that 7.5 per cent of Kenyans may be having asthma.

This is a chronic condition where a person's airways become inflamed, narrow and swell, producing extra mucus, which makes it difficult to breathe.

Asthma has different patterns of occurring from intermittent, moderate to severe. In some cases, the latter may require hospitalisation.

He said there are different observable traits of asthma.

Dr Chakaya said there is adult onset asthma, allergic asthma, non-allergic asthma and occupational asthma, which occurs when one is exposed to inhaled irritants in the workplace.

With asthma being largely driven by environmental factors, the medic said coughing, feeling of chest tightening, shortness of breath and wheezing are the four most common symptoms when someone is having an attack.

“The symptoms may come and go, or may be worse at night or early in the morning,” he added.

“Exposure to dust, smoky environment, pollen from flowers or animal fur and or pollution in urban areas may sometimes trigger the attacks.”

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, there is no evidence to indicate that taking low or moderate doses of inhaled drugs for asthma weakens the immune system and impacts the effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Chakaya said there is no cure or intervention that can be used to prevent asthma, although health experts tried dietary manipulations, injecting allergens in babies’ early life but that did not work.

He insisted on the need for asthmatics to seek information from specialists and know their trigger factors, as well as avoid the ones that can be avoided.

There is also a need for them to carry and get appropriate medicines – both the preventer and reliever.

“Before you get the vaccine, wear a mask, keep social distance, wash your hands with soap and water, or use a sanitiser with at least 60 per cent of alcohol,” he said.

Edited by A.N