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Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize has announced that the health department will temporarily suspend the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in South Africa.
This follows a decision by the US Food and Drug Administration to also temporarily suspend rollout of the vaccine.
The suspension occurred due to reports of six patients developing unusual blood clots. The patients developed clots between six and 13 days after receiving the vaccine.
“It must be noted that over 6,6 million citizens have been inoculated with Johnson and Johnson vaccine in the US,” Mkhize said in a statement.
“In South Africa, we have not had any reports of clots that have formed after vaccination, and this is after having inoculated 289 787 health care workers under the Sisonke Protocol.”
Despite the low incidence, however, Mkhize said that scientists have advised that South Africa shouldn’t take the FDA decision lightly.
As a result, the rollout is suspended while SAHPRA collates information from the J&J, the FDA, and other regulatory bodies.
What does this mean for the vaccine rollout in South Africa?
The news comes soon after government announced plans to start Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout in May.
“We hope that the deliberations will only take a few days,” Mkhize said.
“Given the preliminary literature on hand, our scientists are confident that the FDA’s decision is on a precautionary basis and we expect that this will not result in the complete withdrawal of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine from the vaccination armament.”
Meanwhile, just under two million doses of the Pfizer vaccine will arrive in South Africa in May. In total, 30 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been secured for the 2021 financial year.
Mkhize says that even if the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is halted permanently, Phase Two will continue.
However, he adds that he is confident that the rollout of Johnson & Johnson will resume.
Feature image: Daniel Schludi/Unsplash