'We must vaccinate as many health-care workers as we can before the third wave’ - Goga

By Kelly Jane Turner Time of article published Apr 22, 2021

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GOVERNMENT’S stop-start approach during the administration of the Sisonke Vaccine Programme could fuel vaccine hesitancy.

This is despite an announcement by Acting Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni earlier on Thursday, that the temporary suspension of the vaccine will be lifted.

“Cabinet welcomed the recommendation of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) to lift the suspension of the J&J Sisonke Vaccination Programme. The review data had confirmed that South Africa had not experienced any rare blood clots with the already vaccinated health workers,” said Ntshavheni.

Co-principal investigator of the study Professor Ameena Goga said it is imperative that they vaccinate as many health workers as possible, before the start of the third Covid-19 wave.

“We are very concerned that the pause, and some unfounded reports circulating on social media have fuelled vaccine hesitancy. The risk of Covid-19 far outweighs the risk of adverse events to vaccination, so we urge all South Africans to accept opportunities for vaccination,” she said.

A study pause was the wisest choice to make, said Goga, and it allowed the Sisonke team to assimilate their data and review their procedures.

“The study team were disheartened by the report of clots, following J&J vaccination in six recipients of the vaccine in the US. The pause allowed time to learn more about the reported events in the US, to review our study data with Sahpra and with an independent safety committee, and to update study documents – such as the informed consent and patient information sheet – to include the recently reported adverse events,” she said.

The pause also allowed research sites to be trained to identify “vaccine induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopaenia,” continued Goga.

Earlier this month, the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) revealed in a press release that some thromboembolic events were recorded in health-care workers who had received the J&J vaccine.

A thromboembolic event occurs when a clot breaks off and travels to another part of the body to block a blood vessel.

“Thromboembolic events have been reported rarely, following administration of several Covid-19 vaccines. It is important to note that thromboembolic events are a common complication of Covid-19 infection, are associated with other commonly used medications, including contraception, and with comorbidities such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as smoking,” read the release.

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