SA's health experts to meet after US decides to pause rollout of J&J vaccine

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A nurse gives a shot of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine a drive-thru vaccination site.
A nurse gives a shot of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine a drive-thru vaccination site.
Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Im

South Africa's medical experts will be meeting to discuss the implications of the US's decision to pause the administering of the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccine following reported cases of rare blood clots. 

In a joint statement, the US Food and Drug Agency and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommended pausing the J&J vaccine because of an "abundance of caution".

Six patients developed a rare blood clot disorder after receiving the vaccine. 

READ | US authorities want to pause J&J rollout due to rare blood clots

Professor Glenda Gray, co-principal investigator for the local J&J trial, told News24 they are in discussions with South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and the deputy director-general of health, Anban Pillay, on whether to halt the rollout.

The J&J vaccine is currently the only vaccine being administered to SA healthcare workers. 

According to the New York Times, J&J are aware of the situation.

It said: "We are aware that thromboembolic events, including those with thrombocytopenia, have been reported with Covid-19 vaccines. At present, no clear causal relationship has been established between these rare events and the Janssen Covid-19 vaccine."

Janssen is the name of the J&J division which developed the vaccine.

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority told News24 it could only comment after meeting with experts on Wednesday.

The health department said it is aware of media queries about the matter.  

Meanwhile, Professor Mosa Moshabela, the acting Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research and Innovation at the University of KwaZulu-Natal,  said the US findings should be closely monitored. 

 "South Africa should continue with the rollout,  but observe closely the findings from the US,  put in place measures to monitor clotting risks by healthcare workers, educate the public on the risks and implement the compensation funds," said Moshabela. 

He said stopping local rollout would expose South Africans to the virus "including clots due to Covid-19." 

Wits University's Professor Francois Venter said the clots were a rare side effect. 

"It is a very, very rare side effect,  if it actually is a side effect,  the risk,  even if true,  is much lower than say from the oral contraceptive pill." 

He said pausing would not be a good idea.

"Covid is a much more serious cause of clots. I don't think pausing vaccines is a good idea." 

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