Johnson & Johnson vaccination drive to resume at more sites as jab safe to use - Zweli Mkhize

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  • The number of vaccination sites in SA has been increased to 95.
  • The rollout of Johnson & Johnson vaccines to healthcare workers will continue on Wednesday.
  • The vaccine has been recommended for use, despite a limited number of clotting cases.

Healthcare worker vaccinations will expand as more sites are added to the Sisonke programme when it resumes on Wednesday.

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In a Department of Health statement on Monday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said the department had "on hand, all the doses it needs to complete vaccinating 500 000 healthcare workers".

"The teams have been eagerly standing by, looking forward to making up for lost time by completing this programme in the shortest possible time," Mkhize said.

"As such, I am happy to say that when Sisonke resumes, vaccination sites will be expanded to 95 sites across the country and these sites will continue to vaccinate healthcare workers during Phase One beyond the Sisonke protocol."

The rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was paused after six people developed vaccine induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia in the USA. This number has since increased to eight people.

"It has since been established there is a one in a million chance of getting the clot after the vaccine and that it appears that women between the ages of 18 and 48 years...are particularly at risk. With such a low probability of developing a clot, all the regulators across the world have recommended the continued use of [the] Johnson & Johnson [vaccine]," Mkhize said.

Potential risk

However, South African healthcare workers participating in the Sisonke programme will need to give consent for this potential risk.

"I wish to reassure you all, fellow South Africans, that it is much better to have the vaccine than to avoid taking it for fear of getting a blood clot. In fact, there are many times more cases of blood clots related to the coronavirus itself than the one in a million chance of getting a blood clot from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine," he said.

"Let us remember that Johnson & Johnson is currently the best vaccine against the 501Y.V2 variant, which is dominant in this country. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is effective, easy to use and it is still considered safer to get vaccinated with it than not to."

The first 1.1 million doses of market Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines are ready for dispatch from the Gqeberha plant, according to Mkhize, and are expected to be dispatched in the coming days.

These vaccines will be flown to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and will be transported to the central storage warehouse. Once quality assurance processes are completed with the South African National Control Laboratory, the vaccines will be dispatched to various provinces where they will be stored at more than 900 distribution sites across the country, the health minister added.

"In addition, we will have received over 650 000 doses of Pfizer before 17 May, with a further 325 560 arriving in the week of 17 May. We are therefore more than ready to begin Phase Two on time," he said.

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