- The Department of Health has disputed claims by the Commission for Gender Equality regarding vaccines for women.
- The CGE claims vaccines may cause a small change to the menstrual cycle length, but that this change is temporary.
- According to the department, the CGE's statement may contribute to misinformation and needless vaccine hesitancy in young women.
The Department of Health has disputed claims made by the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), that Covid-19 vaccines are not safe for women of reproductive age and pregnant women.
Last Sunday, the commission issued a media statement titled: "Warning Against Imposing Mandatory Covid-19 Vaccination on Employees and Students".
In the statement, the CGE said that it had noted a new study published in the Obstetrics and Gynaecology medical journal, released on 5 January, that has found that vaccines may cause a small change to the menstrual cycle length, but that this change is temporary.
According to the department, the statement seems to have been released without consultation with any expert institutions.
"The statement has not considered all available evidence and the substantial benefit associated with vaccinating women of reproductive age and pregnant women," department spokesperson Foster Mohale said.
Mohale said the department was in agreement and supported the statement released on Sunday by health organisations, including the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) in disputing the facts as presented by the CGE.
"Covid-19 vaccines are highly effective against severe illness, and immunising women of reproductive age is important as both South African and global data have clearly shown that SARS-CoV-2 infection in pregnancy significantly worsens obstetric and neonatal outcomes, making it imperative that vaccination programmes target young women before and during pregnancy," Mohale said.
He also said that it is important to emphasise that the current discussions about vaccine mandates have no bearing on the effectiveness and efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines, and the department, "... dismisses any argument against the constitutionally of vaccine mandates based on fallacious and non-scientific evidence".
"Health Minister Joe Phaahla is advised by committees of highly qualified scientists and clinicians, including the Ministerial Advisory Committee of Vaccines (VMAC) and [the] National Immunisation Safety Expert Committee (NISEC) whose mandate entails reviewing vaccine safety data and making recommendations on safe vaccine use," Mohale said.
The department added that the South African Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (SASOG) and the South African Medical Association (SAMA), also offer evidence-based recommendations to their membership on vaccine use.
"The conclusion by the commission that 'many women may not be comfortable taking vaccines, due to possible long-term effects' is not supported by data and is not based on a risk [versus] benefit analysis."
Mohale said that the CGE's statement may contribute to misinformation and needless vaccine hesitancy in young women, and at its worst, could contribute to maternal and neonatal deaths.
"Thus, we would like to implore anyone with different views and theories on the effectiveness of vaccines, to back their comments and arguments with scientific evidence, and share data with government for the benefit of the entire population."
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