‘Contaminated is not something you want to hear after vaccination’ - SA reacts to J&J vaccine concerns

14 June 2021 - 10:00 By cebelihle bhengu
SA's health authority will not release J&J vaccines that have been contaminated. File photo.
SA's health authority will not release J&J vaccines that have been contaminated. File photo.
Image: 123RF/ssilver

South Africans have expressed disappointment about reports that two million vaccines manufactured by Johnson & Johnson (J&J) are unsuitable for use.

On Sunday President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed SA had experienced challenges with the vaccines, and that more than two million doses manufactured at the Gqeberha plant in the Eastern Cape will be discarded.

“We have had challenges in relation to the J&J vaccines which have also affected us in SA with regards to batches that seem to have been contaminated. Our Aspen factory in SA had gone ahead to manufacture more than two million doses which were supposed to be distributed. They were told to stop. They did, and have been told they are contaminated. I’m told they have had to dispose those that have been contaminated,” said Ramaphosa.

He said the CEO of Aspen assured him they will start manufacturing batches from scratch and will beef up their capacity.

Acting health minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane on Saturday expressed concern that this would be a setback for SA’s Covid-19 vaccine programme. She was speaking during a vaccination site assessment at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto. 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday said J&J must throw away millions of doses of its Covid-19 vaccine manufactured at a Baltimore factory.

This was after the discovery in April that ingredients from AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, also produced at the plant at the time, contaminated a batch of J&J’s vaccine.

The SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) said it read the report by the FDA and said 300,000 vaccines were safe to be shipped and administered in SA. 

“Sahpra reviewed the data provided by the FDA and has made a decision not to release vaccines produced using the drug substance batches that were not suitable.

"However, there are approximately 300,000 doses from batches that have been cleared by the US FDA that meet the requirements and will subsequently be released and shipped to SA,” said CEO Dr Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela

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