Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)
Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

SA’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout to resume on Wednesday, says Mkhize

By IOL Time of article published Apr 26, 2021

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Johannesburg - The Covid-19 vaccine rollout, which was paused due to blood clot concerns, will resume on Wednesday, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize announced on Monday.

The continuation of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine rollout comes with certain conditions set by Sahpra, including intensified pre-vaccination assessment and post vaccination monitoring and a consent form for healthworkers.

“Today we are pleased to announce that, following Sahpra’s recommendation on 17 April 2021 and Cabinet’s concurrence on 21 April 2021, the vaccine rollout will resume through the Sisonke Programme on Wednesday, 28 April 2021,” Mkhize said.

The heath minister added that they were now aiming to complete the vaccination of health workers in “the shortest possible time” with 95 sites across the country.

“Phase one is due to end on 16 May 2021 and we remain committed to vaccinating as many of the 1,2 million health care workers targeted as possible, despite the unforeseen interruption to our programme. The 95 sites will be published in the next issue of I Choose Vaccination Bulletin and on the Health and SA Coronavirus website.

“We call on all healthcare workers, including traditional healers, who have not registered for vaccination to do so by going onto the website - When you are on the first page click on “YES” where it asks “are you a healthcare worker” and register for vaccination.“

Mkhize also moved to allay fears over the continued use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“As you are all aware, we had to pause the rollout of Johnson and Johnson across the world when 6 (now 8) patients developed a rare clot, called a VITT (which stands for Vaccine Induced Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia), after being vaccinated in the United States of America.

“The pause was to allow scientists to guide health authorities on the potential relationship between the Johnson and Johnson vaccines and these clots so that a determination could be made if it is still safe to continue using Johnson and Johnson as a vaccine. It has since been established there is a one in a million chance of getting the clot after the vaccine and that it appears that women between the ages of 18 and 48 years old are particularly at risk. With such a low probability of developing a clot, all the regulators across the world have recommended the continued use of Johnson & Johnson.

“Here at home, during the hiatus, the South African Medical Research Council and the Department of Health worked very closely with Sahpra and various ethics committees to ensure that there is intensified pre-vaccination assessment and post vaccination monitoring when the rollout is resumed. Sahpra has also added a requirement that all Sisonke participants need to be informed of this potential risk and therefore consent to participating in the trial with this knowledge.

“As such, we need to inform healthcare workers participating in the Sisonke Protocol that, upon registration, they will receive a welcome SMS which will direct them to give consent to participate in the programme.”

Mkhize added: “Let us remember that Johnson & Johnson is currently the best vaccine against the 501Y.V2 variant, which is dominant in this country. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is effective, easy to use and it is still considered safer to get vaccinated with it than not to.“

People who develop headaches or abdominal pain, vomiting, blurry vision or other neurological or abdominal symptoms after being vaccinated, should seek medical attention immediately as these could be signs of a VITT, Mkhize said.

“There are also several ways of reporting any vaccine related side effects you may call the Covid-19 hotline on 0800 029 999, use the newly launched SAHPRA Med Safety App or, if you are a Sisonke participant, you can call the Sisonke Safety Desk on 0800 014 956.”

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