South Africa has temporarily suspended the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Covid-19 vaccine following reported cases where patients have developed rare and severe blood clots.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize made the announcement during a media briefing on Tuesday night after the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended that the country halted the use of the J&J’s single-dose Covid-19 vaccine after six reported cases.
“We cannot take the decision of the FDA lightly. We’ve voluntarily suspended the rollout until the causal relationship between the blood clot and the vaccine is sufficiently interrogated,” he said.
Mkhize further said that the South African Health Products Authority would collate information from Johnson and Johnson, the FDA and other regulatory bodies to make a thorough assessment of the situation going forward.
Mkhize went on to assure South Africans that there was no need for panic and asked for calm at this juncture, adding that no clots had been reported in the country.
“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,” he said.
Mkhize added that South Africa had secured 10 million additional Pfizer vaccines, with two million due to be delivered next month – bring the secured Pfizer vaccines to 30 million doses.
“This also reassures us that, in the extremely unlikely event that the J&J rollout is completely halted, we will not have any impediment to proceed with phase two of the rollout with Pfizer,”explained.
“We are confident that the rollout of J&J will resume and so, with 30 million doses of J&J and 30 million doses of Pfizer secured, we now have enough doses to exceed the 40 million we were targeting this year,”
On Tuesday, the CDC and FDA released a joint statement saying out of an “abundance of caution” that the issuing of the J&J jab should be paused over blood clot fears.
A senior scientist for the FDA told reporters that one US patient had died from blood clotting complications after receiving the J&J Covid vaccine while another was in critical condition.
Overall, six women aged between 18 to 48 developed a rare form of brain blood clotting with low blood platelets between six and 13 days after receiving the shot.
Read the Mkhize's full statement here