Government to lift J&J vaccine suspension, 1 million more doses coming by Monday
President Cyril Ramaphosa's cabinet has agreed to lift the suspension of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Sisonke vaccination programme, acting minister in the presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said on Thursday.
The programme was suspended last week as a precautionary measure after US federal health agencies recommended pausing use of J&J's vaccine because of rare cases of blood clots.
“The re-implementation will commence as soon as the department is ready with all the systems,” said Ntshavheni.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize will announce the recommencement of the programme in due course, she said.
The cabinet held its first physical meeting since the introduction of the lockdown in March 2020.
The suspension allowed SA’s scientists to review the data on the J&J vaccine.
Ntshavheni said the temporary suspension in SA was in line with the government’s commitment to ensure that comprehensive safety measures are undertaken regarding the vaccine rollout.
The reviewed data had confirmed that SA had not experienced any rare blood clots with the already vaccinated health-care workers, she said.
The cabinet therefore welcomed the recommendation by the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) to lift the suspension of the J&J Sisonke vaccination programme.
“Our scientists will continue to monitor all South Africans as and when they are vaccinated,” she said.
By mid-April 2021, “more than 292,623” health-care workers had been vaccinated under the Sisonke programme, said Ntshavheni.
She said the cabinet had welcomed progress in the signing of the contract with J&J on the procurement of its vaccines for the full rollout programme, and commended Mkhize and trade, industry and competition minister Ebrahim Patel for resolving outstanding matters relating to the procurement of the vaccines without compromising the position of the country.
She said SA will receive one million J&J vaccines from the plant in Gqeberha by Monday.
The cabinet also welcomed the successful negotiation of an additional 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which will bring the total doses of the Pfizer vaccine to 30 million. This means SA will be able to vaccinate 15 million people with the Pfizer vaccine instead of just 10 million, she said.
To prepare for phase 2 of the vaccination rollout programme starting on May 17, the cabinet encouraged people aged 60 years and older to register on the Electronic Vaccination Data System.
People without access to the internet can register in person at the 3,338 vaccination sites across the country. Mobile teams will also be deployed to assist the elderly, the homeless and people living in rural areas, she added.