South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced in a press conference on Tuesday that South Africa would be joining the United States in pausing the rollout of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine amidst reports that 6 recipients of the vaccine had developed blood clots with low platelet counts.
"After this advisory came to my attention, I held urgent consultations with our scientists, who have advised that we cannot take the decision made by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lightly," the minister said. "Based on their advice, we have determined to voluntarily suspend our rollout until the causal relationship between the development of clots and the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is sufficiently interrogated."
However, the minister also cautioned against panic as the cases of blood clots had all come from the US and there had been none reported in South Africa so far despite the J&J vaccine having been administered to over 200,000 health workers. He assured the public that the government would cooperate with Johnson and Johnson as well as the FDA in investigating and understanding the situation.
"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 Johnson and Johnson vaccine from the vaccination armament," he said.
South Africa has lost 53,498 lives to COVID-19 so far, along with 1,561,559 confirmed cases in the country, according to Johns Hopkins University. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine was approved for use after it showed promising results against the new and more virulent strain of the COVID-19 virus that arose in the country.