'No appetite, pain in arm': Kenyans narrate effects of Covid-19 jab

Denmark temporarily suspended the use of the vaccine after some patients developed blood clots

In Summary

• President Uhuru Kenyatta received the AstraZeneca jab while his deputy William Ruto received the Sputnik V vaccine at his residential home in Karen, Nairobi.

• The AstraZeneca is being offered for free in Kenya, while Sputnik V has been imported by a private organisation and costs between Sh7,000 and Sh11,000.

A nurse at KNH registers persons above 58 years for the Covid-19 vaccination on March 31, 2021.
A nurse at KNH registers persons above 58 years for the Covid-19 vaccination on March 31, 2021.
Image: FREDERICK OMONDI

Like any other vaccine that has side effects, AstraZeneca's Covid-19 shot has not been spared.

Several countries have suspended the vaccine, while others have given a patchwork of guidelines on who should take it following adverse effects some have reported it had on them.

However, AstraZeneca has defended its jab. According to Reuters, researchers have found that an immune response may explain rare clots after AstraZeneca vaccination.

Meanwhile, Denmark temporarily suspended the use of the vaccine after some patients developed blood clots after receiving the jab.

Austria also suspended the use of a batch of AstraZeneca vaccines after a 49-year-old nurse died of "severe blood coagulation problems" after receiving the shot.

Four other European countries - Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxembourg - have also suspended the use of vaccine.

Kenyans' experiences

In Kenya, experiences vary from those who have taken the jab.

With 2,147 deaths and 132,646 infections since the first case was announced on March 13, 2020, Kenya has received 1.12 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines. 

A total of 806,000 of those doses have been distributed countrywide while 130, 575 people vaccinated as of March 30, 2021.

Businesswoman Mercy Claire says the jab has caused her more harm than she expected.

“Getting the jab itself is not painful. The nurse gives you a shot in the arm and you go away, to await the second dose after eight weeks. The nurse says you should contact the doctor if you have a headache or any other symptom,” she says.

With bitterness in her voice, Claire says that the symptoms she experienced were not something she expected.

“After getting the jab, I did not feel anything the whole day until the night fell. I started feeling feverish and sweaty and a little dizzy,” she says.

But even with these symptoms, she didn't think much of them since every medication has its own effects.

“I did not pay much attention to what was happening, but the night was not smooth and I could barely sleep,” she says.

After getting the jab, I did not feel anything the whole day until the night fell. I started feeling feverish and sweaty and a little dizzy,” 
Mercy Claire says

“I have headache, fever, nausea and a lot of pain in my left arm. I could not sleep on the left side where the jab was administered because of pain. It is stinging a lot.”

Claire says that when she woke up the nausea had gotten worse, adding that she had an elevated temperature with no appetite.

“The headache, fever and sweating became too much. I even tried taking breakfast but could not do it. I am still feeling dizzy,” she narrated.

With the symptoms taking a toll on her, Claire went ahead and took a mixture of ginger, honey and lemon to drive the nausea away.

“I got some relief but not a lot. Dizziness still persists. I still cannot lift my left arm without pain. I have to position my hand with a formula when typing! Direct touch to the site of jab is like a bee sting!” she says.

Another businessman Edward Mathenge says that after getting vaccinated he had a terrible fever.

“I woke up from my sleep shaking at around 3am and the first instinct was to pull over a blanket from the foot of the bed for double cover,” Mathenge says.

Mathenge says that after a while, he was very chilly and started sweating profusely.

“I started sweating heavily but could not get out of bed because my body was very numb. I managed to get out of bed at 6am,” he says.

He says that he was forced to take paracetamol which reduced the fever and numbness. 

“The arm that was jabbed is still numb,” he says.

However, with these effects, the Centre for Disease and Control says the side effects after a person’s second shot may be more intense than the ones you experienced after the first shot. 

“These side effects are normal signs that your body is building protection and should go away within a few days,” CDC says.

The Ministry of Health also said that like any medicine, vaccines can cause mild side effects, such as a low-grade fever, or pain or redness at the injection site. 

“Mild reactions go away within a few days on their own.  Severe or long-lasting side effects are extremely rare,” it says.

According to the CDC, the vaccination will help protect a person from getting Covid-19. 

These side effects may affect your ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days. 

Some people have mild side effects. 

A Kenyan, Philip Chumba says that after the shot he only experienced a fever which is common with other vaccines of medications.

I experienced low- grade fever after eight hours and pain,” he says.

But he noted that after taking pain killers the fever and pain disappeared.

“I am currently feeling okay and ready for the second jab in the coming weeks,” he says.

Health ministry acting director general Dr Patrick Amoth, who was the first Kenyan to take the vaccine on March 5, during its launch at the Kenyatta National Hospital, said he did not experience any effects.

“I did not experience major side effects, apart from soreness (which lasted for 47 hours). I took no medication for the side effects as I expected them to be transient. Better take the vaccine when your turn comes. It is either you get the vaccine or Covid-19.”

A new study by Africa’s Voices Foundation on Kenyan’s  views and attitudes towards the Covid-19 vaccination says that the majority welcome it while others have concerns regarding side effects.

From the analysis, 39% of participants indicated that the arrival of the vaccine is a good thing while 16% did not have faith in the vaccine or expressed mistrust.

On the other hand, seven per cent were worried about the vaccine’s side effects, while 4.1% indicated that government officials should be among the first in getting the vaccine. 

President Uhuru Kenyatta received the AstraZeneca jab while his deputy William Ruto received the Sputnik V vaccine at his residential home in Karen, Nairobi.

The AstraZeneca is being offered for free in Kenya, while Sputnik V has been imported by a private organisation and costs between Sh7,000 and Sh11,000.

After being vaccinated, the DP urged Kenyans to participate in the Covid-19 vaccination exercise to protect themselves against the pandemic.

“Covid-19 vaccines are our safe and effective tools in saving lives and managing the disease. I encourage Kenyans to participate in this exercise to protect ourselves against the pandemic,” Ruto said.