The South African Medical Association (SAMA) says there was no need for the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) coronavirus vaccine programme to be suspended in South Africa.

Last week, Health Minister Doctor Zweli Mkhize announced that South Africa would suspend the Johnson and Johnson vaccine rollout due to the discovery of rare blood clots in six women who had taken the vaccine in the United States.

SAMA is responding to the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority’s (SAHPRA) recommendation, that government lifts this suspension.

“We think it was not necessary for us to stop vaccinating especially because we had no cases reported in SA. Even those who had vaccinated reported minor ailments but not to an extent that is reported in the US,” says SAMA Vice- Chairperson, Dr Mvuyisi Mzukwa.

“We really should continue because we want to avoid people getting sick and hospitalised,” adds Mzukwa.

J&J vaccine rollout expected to resume soon

SAHPRA recommends lifting of J&J vaccine pause after some conditions

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) has recommended that government lifts the pause on administering Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, when certain conditions are met.

It says they include strengthened screening and monitoring of participants who are at high risk of a blood clotting disorder.

SAHPRA says measures are to be implemented to ensure the safe management of any participants who develop vaccine-induced thrombosis and thrombocytopenia.

SAHPRA says it recently reviewed data from Johnson & Johnson’s local research study immunising healthcare workers and found no major safety concerns.

Mkhize’s briefing on suspension of J&J vaccine in SA:

J&J refusing to sign off on supply of 20 million COVID-19 vaccine doses: Mkhize

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize told Parliament that Johnson and Johnson refused to sign off the supply of a further 20 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine unless it receives a letter from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) endorsing the local investment it has made in Aspen pharmaceuticals.

Mkhize says this is a surprise move as such support is already part of the agreement and has been publicly stated. He says this is only one of the many hurdles they have had to deal with as they try to secure vaccines for the country.

The Health Department also had difficult negotiations with Pfizer which wanted to impose terms and conditions that would have threatened the country’s assets.

Mkhize told Parliament that they have not disclosed these difficulties in the past because they were prioritising the acquisition of vaccines. Mkhize also disclosed that Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer are charging the country 10 US dollars per dose of vaccine and no refund should there be a cancellation.

“The Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer agreements have non-refundability clauses to give members comfort. We did check with other jurisdictions if these terms have come through in their agreement and this appears to be the case,” says Mkhize.

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize on SA’s suspension of the J&J vaccine rollout

Pfizer’s CEO believes a booster shot may be required to protect against COVID-19

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla believes that those who have received the pharmaceutical company’s two shot COVID-19 vaccine will likely require a third booster shot to maintain protection against the virus.

Bourla says it was possible that people would have to get an annual immunisation shot against the coronavirus, similar to the flu shot.