By Kaya 959 News
After a brief pause in the country’s roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine programme, Dr Zweli Mkhize announced that the Sisonke Programme will resume on Wednesday.
He said the Department of Health hopes to vaccinate 500 000 healthcare workers.
“I am happy to say that when Sisonke resumes, vaccination sites will be expanded to 95 sites across the country and these sites will continue to vaccinate healthcare workers during phase one beyond the Sisonke Protocol Phase one, scheduled to end on 16 May,” he said.
He said the locations of each site will be shared with the public in due course.
Mkhize said the department is committed to vaccinating as many of the 1,2 million healthcare workers targeted as possible, despite the unforeseen interruption to the programme.
He called on healthcare workers, including traditional healers, who have not registered for vaccination to do so. Mkhize said the programme was halted after eight patients developed a rare condition called Vaccine Induced Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia.
“The pause was to allow scientists to guide health authorities on the potential relationship between the J&J vaccines and these clots so that a determination could be made if it is still safe to continue using J&J 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 J&J,” he said.
In SA, the South African Medical Research Council and the Department of Health worked closely with SAHPRA and a number of 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.
“I also need to inform the nation that SAHPRA has recommended that pregnant and lactating women be excluded from the Sisonke Protocol at this stage. The Medical Research Council, along with other academic and scientific bodies, will engage
SAHPRA on this recommendation and we hope that, whilst SAHPRA may have elected to err on the side of caution, the scientists will be able to make the case for pregnant and lactating women to receive the vaccine,” Mkhize said.
He said as the roll out moves forward, if anyone develops headaches or abdominal pain, vomiting, blurry vision or other neurological or abdominal symptoms after being vaccinated, one should seek medical attention immediately as these could be signs of a VITT. 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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