By Kaya 959 News
The Democratic Alliance has slammed the Health Department’s decision to ‘voluntarily halt’ its Johnson & Johnson vaccine programme following the death of a woman in the United States.
Earlier in the week, the Health Minister announced that the department would await further reports from the Food and Drug Administration before continuing the rollout. Currently, in SA, less than 300 000 healthcare workers have been inoculated.
Dr Zweli Mkhize said at least six women in the US had developed blood clots days after taking the J&J vaccine – which has a higher efficacy rate against the new variant of Covid which was discovered in SA late last year – and one woman has died.
DA calls for speedy investigation
However, DA Health Shadow Minister, Siviwe Gwarube, said they were opposed to the decision and subsequent announcement.
The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) is said to be investigating adverse effects that can be attributed to the use of the J&J vaccine.
“This investigation needs to be concluded speedily in order for South Africa to resume and significantly ramp up the rollout of this life-saving vaccine which has been an unmitigated disaster thus far,” he said.
Gwarube said the statistical significance of six people out of close to seven million who have had adverse effects in the United States pales in comparison to the devastating impact a possible third wave of Covid-19 infections could have.
He said leading academics and experts – who must absolutely lead the decision-making on this – have not been in support of the government’s decision in this regard.
“It then begs the question why such a drastic step has been taken. Is it simply because the government is shielding its own poor performance on the vaccine rollout so far? In addition, this kind of ‘stop-start’ approach could be incredibly damaging to the public perception of vaccination when the risks seem almost negligible statistically and scientifically,” he said.
Gwarube said it made little sense to copy countries like the United States where the context is very different.
“The US has the luxury of being able to temporarily suspend administration of the J&J vaccine because they have already vaccinated millions of their citizens and have various vaccines in circulation.
“Halting the administering of one vaccine does not impact them as much as it could impact South Africa, since we currently only have tiny quantities of this single vaccine available to us,” Gwarube said.
He added that the South African government has failed spectacularly thus far to procure a variety of vaccines in bulk, to reach the 1.2m healthcare workers targeted, to produce a general rollout plan, and to move beyond the trial phase of the vaccine rollout.
“The rollout has been criminally slow. The only rational approach to vaccine administration is a cost-benefit analysis of the risks South Africa faces.
“Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on our country – costing thousands of lives and millions of livelihoods. The risk of adverse effects is negligible when compared to the risks associated with a possible 3rd wave of Covid-19 infections.”
“We call on the Minister and SAHPRA to conclude these deliberations and assure South Africans that this is not merely a scapegoating exercise to shield government from accountability,” Gwarube said.
We need to get to the business of saving lives and livelihoods by launching a real vaccine rollout programme.