South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced the voluntary suspension of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the country on Tuesday evening in a media briefing.
Article continues below
Mkhize said that the decision was taken following the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) recommendation to temporarily pause the J&J vaccine program in the United States.
"This has occurred to due reports of 6 females who developed unusual blood clots with low platelets. These incidents occurred between 6 and 13 days after vaccination in women between the ages of 18 and 48 years old," said the minister.
He said there is no report of clots that have formed after vaccination in South Africa after the country inoculated 289,787 health care workers. However, South African scientists have advised that "we cannot take the decision made by the FDA lightly."
"Based on their advice, we have determined to voluntarily suspend our rollout until the causal relationship between the development of clots and the J&J vaccine is sufficiently interrogated," Mkhize said.
He said the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) will collate information from J&J, the FDA and other regulatory bodies to make a thorough assessment of the situation.
"We hope that the deliberations will only take a few days. Given the preliminary literature on hand, our scientists are confident that the FDA's decision is on a precautionary basis and we expect that this will not result in the complete withdrawal of the J&J vaccine from the vaccination armament," he added.
The official announced that South Africa has successfully negotiated for another 10 million doses from Pfizer, which means that the country has secured 30 million doses of Pfizer vaccine for this financial year.
"In the extremely unlikely event that J&J rollout is completely halted, we will not have any impediment to proceed with phase two of the rollout with Pfizer," he said. ■
Warm, dry and windy conditions, caused by the emergence of a strong cold front from the Rockies will contribute to a critical fire weather threat for parts of southeastern Colorado and southwestern Kansas this afternoon.