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South Africa to continue with J&J vaccine as cabinet lifts suspension

South Africa will resume the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccinations after a data review confirmed that healthcare workers who had already received the shot had not experienced blood clots. 

The country suspended its Sisonke vaccination programme on 13 April as a precautionary measure after six American women who had had the J&J vaccine had blood clots.

The suspension was as a result of advice issued by the United States Centres for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration.  

On Thursday, the acting minister in the presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, announced that after recommendations presented to the cabinet, a decision was made to lift the suspension. 

“The reviewed data had confirmed that South Africa had not experienced any rare blood clots with the already vaccinated health workers. Cabinet welcomes the recommendation of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority to lift the suspension of the J&J Sisonke vaccination programme. Our scientists will continue to monitor all South Africans, as and when they are vaccinated,” said Ntshavheni. 

She said that the second phase of the roll-out would start on 17 May. 

Phase one of the programme is yet to be completed. Of the more than 600 000 healthcare workers who registered to be vaccinated, about 290 000 have received their jabs since the health department started its vaccination programme on 17 February.

Ntshavheni confirmed that South Africa had procured 30-million Pfizer vaccines, up from the initial 10-million. She called on people 60 years and older to use the Electronic Vaccination Data System to register online for the shots. 

“People without access to the internet can register in person at over 3 328 vaccination sites across the country. This is an increase from the initial 2 088 vaccines sites, and mobile phones will also be deployed to assist the elderly, the homeless, and people living in rural areas.”

The minister also noted a slight increase of 4.9% in persons testing positive for the virus in the past 14 days. 

“The slight increase in cases is attributed to cluster resurgences in the Free State and Northern Cape,” said Ntshavheni, adding that the government did activate its rapid response teams to conduct contact tracing to prevent further spreading. 

As of Wednesday, 21 April, the country has recorded 1 569 935 Covid cases since the virus was first detected in March last year. The number of virus-related deaths stands at 53 940, while the recovery rate is 95%.

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a junior daily news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She was previously a freelance journalist and a broadcaster at Maroela Media and Smile90.4FM.

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