Unit Director of the HIV Prevention Research Unit at the South African Medical Research Council, Professor Ameena Goga, says they expect to have concluded with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine Sisonke protocol study by the end of April and first week in May.

Thereafter they will collate the findings and release a report as the country gears up to begin the second phase of its vaccination campaign, targeting the elderly and essential workers, which is expected to commence on May 17th.

Goga says the vaccine does not fully protect a person from getting COVID-19 but reduces the risk of severe disease and eliminates death from the virus.

“Of the people who were vaccinated, about 17 have reported a COVID-19 positive test and that’s after about 14 days post-vaccination. We haven’t done a full analysis yet. We review results every week, we have passed the halfway mark. What we really want to show through this study is how does it work in a real-life setting in the field. It prevents you from getting severe disease, almost an 85% protection against severe disease and then it offers 100% protection against death,” says Goga.

Side effects of vaccine

Goga says they have recorded mainly expected side effects of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine during the Sisonke COVID-19 trial that South Africa is currently involved in as part of phase one of its vaccination strategy. These include body aches, fever and flu-like symptoms.

“So about 80% of people have reported the usual reactogenicity side effects that we would expect; fever, headaches, body aches, muscle aches, so these are flu-like symptoms. We would expect those symptoms. We have had a few other side effects like vasovagal attacks where people have fainted. We have not seen many, one or two people. We’re hoping we will receive the last tranche of doses by next week and the rate we vaccinate we think that we should be done by the end of April or first week in May. Pushing it to the second week in May perhaps,” says Goga.

Yesterday,  Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced that government has secured agreements for 51 million doses of vaccine doses from Johnson and Johnson. He has also announced that the next batch of vaccine doses from the company is expected to arrive in the country on Monday.  

More than 50 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines secured for SA: