South Africans worried about pause in Johnson & Johnson vaccine use – Times of India

JOHANNESBURG: South AfricaThe decision to suspend use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to preliminary reports of rare blood clots has left the country without any vaccine as it struggles to fight an aggressive variant of the coronavirus.
South Africa has more than 1.5 million confirmed cases of Covid-19, including at least 53,000 deaths, representing more than 30% of all confirmed cases in the 54 countries of Africa. So far, he has only inoculated 290,000 health workers, all with the J&J vaccine.
South Africa’s plans to start large-scale vaccinations next month are dependent on the delivery of millions of doses of Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. The government has said it plans to vaccinate 40 million of the country’s 60 million people by February 2022.
The health minister said South Africa had not received any reports of blood clots in vaccinees, the problem which led the US Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday to recommend a halt in use of the J&J vaccine. Some health experts have criticized South Africa’s decision to follow the United States at such a critical time.
“I expected the South African government to be undisturbed by the results of the United States. I expected there would be no disruption, ”Mosa Moshabela, professor of public health at the University of KwaZulu-Natal told The Associated Press. . “Johnson & Johnson is our only option (vaccine) right now. I really didn’t expect we would have to stop.”
He said it was likely that South African health officials will soon be able to resume use of J&J vaccines, although the disruption may contribute to vaccine reluctance.
The National Health and Allied Workers, however, has welcomed the hiatus to ensure the J&J product is safe, union spokesman Khaya Xaba said.
This is not South Africa’s first abrupt change in its vaccination strategy. In February, the country abandoned its plan to donate AstraZeneca vaccine to its health workers because a small preliminary test showed it offered minimal protection against mild to moderate cases of Covid-19 caused by the dominant variant in South Africa.
It was then that South Africa quickly switched to using the J&J vaccine. The country had already participated in an international clinical trial of the vaccine without any problems. The vaccine was also found to have good efficacy against the dominant variant in South Africa.
The country has ordered 30 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. South Africa has also ordered a total of 30 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
The J&J vaccine is being administered to 1.2 million South African health workers in a large-scale research study, as the vaccine has not yet been approved for general use in South Africa.
Rashika Alberlito, the administrator of an intensive care unit at a private hospital in Kwazulu-Natal province, was injected with the J&J vaccine last month. She is now extremely worried: she was hospitalized for almost two weeks in 2015 because of a blood clot in one of her lungs. Alberlito continues to take blood thinners and worries about the possible link between the J&J vaccine and blood clots.
“I asked about the safety of the vaccine given my condition, and was assured it was safe,” Alberlito told The Associated Press. “That is why I was very shocked and worried to hear the minister’s announcement, but I hope the test results will not confirm any causal link between the blood clots and the vaccine.”
Like Alberlito, many South Africans are hopeful that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be found to be safe.
While acknowledging the importance of vaccine safety, Prof Moshabela said there was an urgent need for South Africa to vaccinate millions of people as soon as possible. He hopes the suspension of the J&J vaccine will not last long.
“In the meantime, you’re going to have a lot of people catching Covid, and some of them will die while you delay the deployment (of the vaccine), ”Moshabela said.
Potential problems with the J&J vaccine could affect all of Africa, as the African Union recently secured orders for 220 million doses of the vaccine to be used across the continent.
“The last thing we want is a cloud of doubt about vaccines in Africa and around the world. It only reinforces this belief that vaccines are not safe on the African continent, or in the world of elsewhere, “Dr. John Nkengasong, director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday during a webinar.

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