The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) says it will continue evaluating the safety and watching world developments regarding the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine.

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize announced last night that the rollout of the vaccine to health workers in the country has been temporarily suspended.

This followed an advisory of federal health agencies in the US to temporarily halt the use of the vaccine after six women developed blood clots after receiving the vaccination.

One of them has died and another one is in serious condition in hospital.

Mkhize says almost 290 000 healthcare workers have received the J&J vaccine up until now but that no reports of blood clots have been received.

He said he was confident that the vaccine will continue to be rolled out in the future.

SAHPRA board chairperson Professor Helen Rees says what happened in the US needs to be closely monitored. She says honest discussions between regulators and governments are required.

“We have to be able to not only look for safety but you have to be able to say is that safety signal actually has to do with the vaccine or it is just because things happened when you rolled out vaccines to millions of people. Health issues still arise and this is what is cases causality assessment. You really need to look and say this is really associated with the vaccine or is just a few chances because you are pushing it to so many people.”

Mkhize calls on public not to panic

Mkhize has called on the public not to panic following the announcement that the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson has been suspended in South Africa.

Mkhize says the issue will be cleared in a few day’s time, “It’s precautionary halting. It’s not like we are closing down on Johnson and Johnson. As soon as the information is made available we are quite certain that we should move on. It might take a couple of days to resume but at this point, we think it might be the best way to deal with it.”

Mkhize announcing temporary suspension of J&J vaccine: