South Africa vaccination programme in quandary as US suspends Johnson & Johnson vaccine

THE South African Department of Health will shortly release official communication in reaction to the recommended pausing of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

On Tuesday, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), released a joint statement saying out of an “abundance of caution” that the issuing of the J&J jab should be paused.

The department’s spokesperson Dr Lwazi Manzi said the queries on the FDA announcement had been noted and further communication will be shared as soon as possible.

Six women in the US, between the ages of 18 to 48, developed a rare blood-clotting disorder after getting the vaccine. One case was fatal and one remains in critical care.

According to the statement, this type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) was seen in combination with low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia).

“Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare. Covid-19 vaccine safety is a top priority for the federal government. People who have received the J&J vaccine, who develop severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath, within three weeks after vaccination, should contact their health care provider.”

More than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine have been administered in the US.

South Africa has been administering the vaccine to more than 280 000 health workers as part of the Sisonke vaccine study which secured the early use of the vaccine in the country.