South Africa suspends Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine
South Africa has joined the US in suspending its roll-out of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, following reports that six women who received the immunization doses had developed unusual blood clots with low platelet count. After this came to attention, urgent consultations with scientists were held, who advised that the decision made by the US Food and Drug Administration shouldn't be taken lightly.
Roll-out to remain suspended until further investigations
"Based on the scientists' advice, we have determined to voluntarily suspend our roll-out until the causal relationship between the development of clots and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is sufficiently interrogated," Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement on Tuesday evening.
South Africa has not seen any case of blood clot
Mkhize emphasized that there hadn't been any reports of clots after vaccinations in South Africa, despite 289,787 health care workers already having received the vaccine. All the cases of blood colt-related complications have arisen from the US. The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority will collate information from Johnson & Johnson, the FDA, and other regulatory bodies to make a thorough assessment.
This is only a precautionary measure: Health Minister
The Health Minister called for patience, saying that the discussion around the suspension might only take a few days. "Given the preliminary literature on hand, our scientists are confident that the FDA's decision is on a precautionary basis and we expect that this will not result in the complete withdrawal of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from the vaccination armament," he said.
South Africa targeting 40 million vaccinations this year
"We are confident that the roll-out of Johnson & Johnson will resume. With 30 million doses of J&J and 30 million doses of Pfizer secured we now have enough doses to exceed the 40 million we were targeting this year," the minister said. "This is in line with our commitment to vaccinate as many people as possible in this financial year," he added.
Additional Pfizer vaccines will ensure vaccination plan isn't hindered
The minister added that the additional Pfizer vaccines would also not impede the government's vaccine roll-out plan. "This also reassures us that, in the extremely unlikely event that the Johnson and Johnson rollout is completely halted, we will not have any impediment to proceeding with phase two of the roll-out with Pfizer," he said. The country has lost 53,498 people to the infection.