MINISTRY of Health Director of Infectious Diseases Professor Lloyd Mulenga says he gets worried when the cold season is approaching because it is possible to see a new variant and an increase in the number of COVID-19 infections.

And Prof Mulenga says COVID-19 vaccination side effects depend on an individual.

In an interview, Prof Mulenga said there was a need to adhere to the COVID-19 prevention measures to avoid experiencing a spike in the cases.

“You know, the decision to lift the restrictions was based on the fact that our positivity rate has been low and consistently low for more than six weeks. And also our economy is a very small economy which depends on other external factors as well. The numbers of individuals who are vaccinated are not many, we are not near the desired 70% level but we have seen an increase in the number of those that are getting vaccinated. So when you look at that balance of those that were positive, we lifted those restrictions but if you remember the way it was announced that these restrictions may be revived, at any time we see an indication of an increase in the cases,” he said.

“Personally I get worried when we see the cold season approaching and when we start seeing a new variant, it’s possible we may be entering a phase where the number of infections are increasing. What is more important is really to make sure that we observe the five golden rules. We need to observe those measures throughout, especially now when we start seeing a number of cases here and there. You know what happened at DK where there were a number of cases, children were infected, some even admitted. It’s a signal that if we relax we are going to have a spike in the number of cases, it may just be a spike or surge, it may not be a wave, so anyone who is going out, especially in public they need to observe the masking up. Whether it is at a ceremony or just going in a public place, masking up including physical distancing, hand hygiene and importantly vaccinations, this should always be observed.”

And Prof Mulenga said COVID-19 vaccination side effects depended on an individual.

“The side effects depend on an individual. There is so far no correlation with immunity, though one thing which is very common is that the young ones who are able to build up a strong immune response are likely going to have some mild effects compared to the elderly where the immune response is weak. They are less likely to have symptoms related to the vaccine itself. But if you compare the young individuals and those who have vaccine side effects and those who don’t, you can’t tell why someone develops side effects and someone doesn’t,” said Prof Mulenga.

“But we are learning a lot about the vaccines and we are doing a trial here in Zambia where we are looking at following up HIV infected individuals who get vaccinated and trying to see how the reactions may be and how they differ from the general population. So far we haven’t found any differences.”