No deaths attributed to Covid vaccines in South Africa – while the latest data shows they work

 ·14 Sep 2021

New data from the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) and the Department of Health shows that, while there have been many reports of common negative side-effects from Covid-19 vaccines, none are directly attributed to deaths in the country.

According to Sahpra, as of Monday, 13 September, a total of 14,922,954 Covid vaccines had been administered in South Africa.

Approximately 3.2 million people have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and 4 million people have been fully vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, it said. Overall, over 27% of the adult population has been vaccinated.

While the government’s vaccination drive has visibly ramped up over the last few months, authorities are still hitting hurdles with the spread of misinformation about vaccines and their efficacy, cultivating vaccine hesitancy within the population.

Among the doubts being spread online and among communities, people are afraid of side effects or vaccines leading to further health problems or even death.

Sahpra logs post-vaccine effects as Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFIs) on its system. These are reported directly to Sahpra by patients via its app or through medical professionals.

Only 2,770 AEFIs have been reported in South Africa – representing 0.02% of all doses administered.

These reports cover common side-effects experienced by people taking Covid vaccines, including (listed from most common to least common):

  • Headaches
  • Local reaction (soreness around injection spot)
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Pain
  • Pyrexia (fever)
  • Nausea
  • Dyspnoea (laboured breathing)
  • Chest pain
  • Chills
  • Myalgia (muscle aches)

These conditions can persist post-vaccine for a day or two and require minimal medical intervention, Sahpra said. These AEFIs are still monitored, however, to ensure they are at low and acceptable rates.

More, extremely rare AEFIs can also occur, which Sahpra then sends for investigation by a group of experts to determine the causality.

Between May and 31 August 2021, there have been 86 reports of death among people who received Covid-19 vaccines (0.0007% of the total). 46 of these cases are still under investigation; however, 40 have been investigated and causality assessed.

The experts found 34 cases to be coincidental, with no relation to the vaccine. 13 of the cases were Covid-19 related, and one case was a breakthrough infection. The remaining 6 cases were unclassifiable due to inadequate information available.

“Adverse events following immunisation are taken very seriously in South Africa,” Sahpra said.

“Vaccinated people are therefore encouraged to report any adverse event that is of concern to them. Anyone experiencing a severe adverse event or an adverse event getting worse and not subsiding within 2-3 days, should immediately seek help at the nearest healthcare facility, i.e. clinic, hospital or general practitioner,” the body said.

Death data

Financial services firm Momentum Metropolitan last week reported that it experienced an abnormally high number of death claims over the last year.

South African life insurance businesses paid R10.7 billion in death claims during the year, compared to an average of R5.6 billion per year over the three years preceding the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the group, between July and August 2021, it paid out over R1 billion in claims – but only 2% of that went to claims where the deceased was vaccinated against Covid-19.

Put another way, the group said that 98% of death claims come from people who were not vaccinated against the virus.

The insurer pointed to other data that indicated that vaccines were working: during the first wave of Covid-19, claims involving frontline healthcare workers accounted for 8% of total claims. Once these workers started getting vaccinated, this share dropped to 2%.

The insurer said its claims experience to date suggest that people who are not vaccinated are 50 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than fully vaccinated people.

Read: Regulator approves Pfizer vaccine for children over 12 in South Africa

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