Government will lift suspension of Johnson & Johnson vaccine programme

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A healthcare worker receives a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine against the coronavirus.
A healthcare worker receives a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine against the coronavirus.
PHOTO: Phill Magakoe/AFP
  • Cabinet has agreed to lift the suspension of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine programme.
  • No vaccinated South African healthcare workers had rare blood clots.
  • Health Minister Zweli Mkhize will announce when the rollout will continue.

Cabinet agreed to lift the suspension of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine programme, acting Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni announced on Thursday.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize will announce the recommencement of the programme, Ntshavheni added.

She said the programme would continue as soon as the department was ready. This was decided on Wednesday at Cabinet's first physical meeting since the outbreak of Covid-19.

"Cabinet was briefed on the temporary suspension of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Sisonke Vaccination Programme, which was a precautionary measure which allowed South Africa's scientists to review the South African data on the J&J vaccine," Ntshavheni said.

She said: 

This followed the suspension of the J&J vaccination rollout programme in the United States of America after six people who received the J&J vaccine developed a rare type of blood clot. Another reason for the temporary suspension was the decision by J&J to voluntarily suspend the rollout of their vaccine in the Eurozone.

She said the temporary suspension in South Africa was in line with government's commitment to ensure that comprehensive safety measures are undertaken during the vaccine rollout.

READ | J&J Covid vaccine manufacturing halted at plant that ruined doses

"The reviewed data had confirmed that South Africa had not experienced any rare blood clots with the already vaccinated healthcare workers.

"Cabinet welcomed the recommendation by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority to lift the suspension of the J&J Sisonke Vaccination Programme."

She said scientists would continue to monitor all vaccinated South Africans.

By mid-April, more than 292 623 healthcare workers had been vaccinated under the Sisonke programme.

Cabinet also welcomed the signing of a contract with J&J to procure vaccines for the full rollout programme and commended Mkhize and Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel for resolving outstanding matters relating to the procurement of the vaccines, without compromising South Africa's position.

She said: 

Furthermore, Cabinet welcomed the successful negotiation of an additional 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which brings the total doses of the Pfizer vaccine to 30 million. This means South Africa will be able to vaccinate 15 million people with the Pfizer vaccine, instead of just 10 million.

To prepare for Phase 2 of the vaccination rollout programme which starts on 17 May 2021, Cabinet encourages people aged 60 years and older to register on the Electronic Vaccination Data System:

People who do not have access to the internet can register in person at more than 3 338 vaccination sites across the country. Mobile teams will also be deployed to assist the elderly, the homeless and people living in rural areas.

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