Covid-19: Mkhize suspends rollout of J&J vaccine as a ‘precautionary measure’

  • Zweli Mkhize announces a temporary pause in the rollout of the J&J vaccine.
  • A final decision on the vaccine will be made in the next few days.  
  • Mkhize has called for calm in light of the decision to pause the rollout.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has announced a temporary pause of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

It follows a decision by the US Food and Drug Agency (FDA) to pause the vaccine rollout after of blood clots were discovered in six female recipients. The vaccine has been rolled out to over six million US residents.  

READ | US authorities want to pause J&J rollout due to rare blood clots

On Tuesday evening, Mkhize said while the local Sisonke Protocol, which rolled out the J&J vaccine to healthcare workers, has had no reports of blood clots, it has been decided to suspend the rollout as a precautionary measure. 

He said the decision was taken after meeting with scientists and health experts. 

“We have decided to voluntarily suspend our rollout until the causal relationship between the developments of clots and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is sufficiently interrogated.” 

The minister said the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) would collate information from the FDA and J&J.

He said deliberations would take “only a few days”.

Meet

Sahpra is meeting on Tuesday night, while the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 vaccines is expected to meet on Wednesday. 

Just over a million doses of the J&J vaccine are supposed to be delivered from the Aspen plant next week. 

“I humbly call for calm and patience as we ensure that we continue to be properly guided by science to ensure the safety of our people.”

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Mkhize also announced that an additional 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been secured.

This brings the total of secured Pfizer vaccines to 30 million.

Mkhize said this means the country will still be on track to reach its vaccination targets. Two million of the doses will be delivered in May, when the phase 2 rollout is expected to start. 

Sahpra chairperson Professor Helen Rees said the regulator would have an honest discussion with the public before making any decisions.

“The thing that we have to think about is what is the benefit of the vaccines to individuals and society versus the risk that is tiny. That is the conversation that we must have, and the regulator will be very honest with the public.”