Government has temporarily suspend the roll-out of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in the country.  The announcement was made by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Tuesday night after the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommended a pause in the J&J single shot in the US.

In a joint statement, the FDA and the Centres for Disease Control said they were investigating blood clots in six women who received the J&J single dose shot.

 SA suspends J&J vaccine rollout:

One of the woman died and another one is in a critical condition in hospital.

South Africa has, however, not had any report of blood clots in its vaccination rollout. The country has vaccinated 289 787 healthcare workers with the J&J vaccine in an ongoing research study since February, with another 200 000 doses arriving this week.

Government has also secured 30 million market doses to be rolled out in the country from May.

US recommends pausing administration of J&J vaccine over blood clots concerns:

Mkhize says South African Scientist advised that government not take the FDA findings lightly.

“After this advisory came to my attention, I held urgent consultations with our scientists, who have advised that we cannot take the decision made by the FDA lightly. Based on their advice, we have determined to voluntarily suspend our rollout until the causal relationship between the development of clots and the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is sufficiently interrogated,” he adds.

The Minister says the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) will gather information from J&J, FDA and other regulatory bodies to thoroughly assess the situation before advising government regarding the vaccine.

Reports expected

Mkhize has called for calm as government works on continuing to ensure that the lives of South Africans are protected. He says negative reports are expected as they show that experts are on a vigilant watch of vaccines.

“We also wish to assure citizens that these kinds of reports are expected to emerge as part of a robust post market surveillance system. This should provide comfort that medical authorities keep a vigilant watch on all new products that are deployed into the market to ensure they remain safe and effective for human consumption,” he adds.

SA’s Phase 2 of vaccination with Pfizer

Mkhize says that following these development, South Africa will implement post market surveillance study for the Pfizer vaccine under the Sisonke Protocol.

He says SA has secured 30 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine as government continues with Phase 2 of the vaccination rollout.

“We are confident that the rollout of Johnson & Johnson will resume and so, with 30 million doses of Johnson and Johnson and 30 million doses of Pfizer secured, we now have enough doses to exceed the 40 million we were targeting this year. This is in line with our commitment to vaccinate as many people as possible in this financial year. In the ideal scenario, we would vaccinate every single adult found in South Africa.”

Mkhize has urged South Africans to be supportive of scientists and experts as they work under a lot of pressure to provide answers for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minister Zweli Mkhize briefs on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine: