South Africa suspends rollout of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine

The country follows US to pause the rollout of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine amid blood clot concerns.

On Tuesday evening during a media briefing, the Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize announced the department will be suspending the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as a precautionary measure and was hopeful this will only be for a few days. This came after the US Food and Drug Administration announced it had suspended further use of the vaccine while awaiting the outcome of a review into concerns raised about a rare type of blood clot in the brain along with low levels of platelets reported in six women in the US. While no clots were reported in South Africa to date, Mkhize made it clear that the FDA recommendation was not being taken lightly.

Similar concerns in Europe led to the suspension of AstraZeneca’s vaccine rollout. “Based on their advice, we have determined to voluntarily suspend our rollout until the causal relationship between the development of clots and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is sufficiently interrogated,” said the minister. Mkhize also indicated that the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority would be collating all the applicable information on the use of the vaccine to allow for a thorough assessment. The J&J vaccine has already been administered to almost 300,000 South African health workers as part of an early access programme called the Sisonke trial rollout.