South Africa set to lift Johnson & Johnson vaccine suspension

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet has welcomed the recommendation by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority to lift the suspension of the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) Sisonke Vaccination Programme.

South Africa suspended the rollout in line with recommendations from the United States where six people developed a rare type of blood clot after taking the vaccine.

Johnson and Johnson subsequently suspended its rollout of the vaccine in Europe.

In a cabinet briefing on Thursday (22 April), minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said that South Africa suspended the programme in line with the government’s commitment to ensure that comprehensive safety measures are undertaken regarding the vaccine roll-out.

However, the reviewed data has confirmed that South Africa had not experienced any rare blood clots with the already vaccinated healthcare workers, she said.

News24 reported that Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize will announce the official recommencement of the programme shortly.

More vaccines coming 

Cabinet also welcomed the successful negotiation of an additional 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The deal means that 30 million Pfizer vaccines are now headed for the country.

“This means South Africa will be able to vaccinate 15 million people with the Pfizer vaccine instead of just 10 million,” Ntshavheni said.

To prepare for phase 2 of the vaccination rollout programme starting on 17 May 2021, Cabinet encouraged people aged 60 years and older to register on the Electronic Vaccination Data System.

“People without access to the internet can register in person at over 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,” Ntshavheni  said.

While further lockdown restrictions look unlikely, cabinet said it was concerned about a report which indicated a slight increase of 4,9% in persons testing positive in the past 14 days, by 18 April 2021.

The cases increased from 14,113 in the preceding 14 days to 14,807 cases in the last 14 days.

“The slight increase in cases is attributed to cluster resurgences in the Free State and Northern Cape, and rapid response teams have been activated to conduct contact tracing,” Ntshavheni said.

Read: How government’s lockdown went against scientific recommendations on alcohol, schools and Easter

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South Africa set to lift Johnson & Johnson vaccine suspension