The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) says the sector is going ahead with the plan to receive the Johnson & Johnson(J&J) vaccine despite the uncertainty.
On Monday, the Department of Health told SABC News that workers in the education sector will not receive their vaccines this week. This is because the United States medicines regulator, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has not yet given the go-ahead for the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines to be released.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says South Africa does not have to wait for the FDA to lift the suspension on the use of the J&J vaccine because the vaccine has received emergency approval.
The World Health Organisation says South Africa doesn’t have to wait for @FDA to lift the suspension on the use of the Johnson&Johnson vaccine because Johnson and Johnson vaccine has received emergency approval. #sabcnews
— Sophie Mokoena (@Sophie_Mokoena) June 7, 2021
J&J has offered South Africa a batch of vaccines with a shelf life of three weeks.
Naptosa Executive Director, Basil Manuel, says they will continue to make plans for vaccinations despite the uncertainty.
“We are elated that we are talking about education workers getting a vaccine. We are concerned that the FDA has not given the stamp of approval. Provinces are going full steam ahead with the planning for the rollout. We don’t want to sit back, then the vaccines do arrive and no planning has been made. Just given the sheer number of people involved, if we don’t have our ducks in a row, this could end up in a mess. It could be a waste of money given that these vaccines will expire in a short space of time.”
Video: Naptosa’s Basil Manuel weighs in on the education sector’s vaccine rollout:
The FDA still needs to determine whether the J&J vaccine was contaminated with ingredients of AstraZeneca’s COVID shot.
COVID-19 vaccinations have undergone stringent safety and efficacy tests to ensure minimal side effects for those receiving them. It was recently discovered that some of J&J’s and AstraZeneca’s key ingredients are being manufactured in the same factory belonging to a company that the FDA is investigating for substandard pharmaceutical practices and potential cross-contamination of ingredients.
Without the FDA approval, the vaccine will not be distributed.
This particular batch of J&J vaccines is expected to expire on the 28th of June, leaving little time for inoculation if and when it does arrive in the country.
Finalisation of contamination issues at Baltimore J&J vaccine plant imminent:
The FDA was expected to make an announcement on Friday about its ruling on the safety of the vaccine and whether the vaccine could be released or not. Dr Nicholas Crisp, Deputy Director General at the Department of Health, manages the distribution of vaccines in South Africa. He says the delay in this announcement has interrupted their plans to vaccinate those in the education sector this week.
“Unfortunately, we are not able to start with it this week because the J&J has been held up by an FDA decision. We have not been able to get our vaccines released in SA. Unfortunately, the FDA did not rule on Friday, the vaccine is stuck in the US and will not be able to be transported until the outcome of the FDA. If we hear by the end of the week and that vaccine is cleared and we can bring it, then we will still have 2 weeks and proceed with the programme.”
The Health Department says that they took the decision to offer the batch of vaccines that expire at the end of the month to workers in the education sector after the government announced that learners in public schools will resume daily classes on July 26, putting school staff at an increased risk of infection.
Currently, through the electronic vaccination data system, only healthcare workers and people over the age of 60 qualify to be vaccinated.