The South african government has suspended giving Johnson & Johnson vaccine shots as a precautionary measure for covid 19.
South Africa has so far given more than 289,000 doses of the J&J vaccine to the country’s health workers without any reports of rare blood clots, Health Minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize told reporters.
Mkhize said that the J&J vaccines are permanently halted, South Africa will continue with its vaccination campaign in May using doses from Pfizer-BioNTech.
The move came after regulators in the United States said they were recommending a pause in the single-dose shot to investigate reports of rare but potentially dangerous blood clots.
In February, South Africa began vaccinating health workers with the J&J vaccine in a research trial after abandoning plans to use the AstraZeneca shot when a preliminary study suggested the AstraZeneca vaccine was only minimally effective against the variant of COVID-19 that first arose in the country.
Last month, the African Union announced it signed a deal to buy up to 400 million doses of the J&J vaccine. Johnson & Johnson also has a deal to supply up to 500 million doses to the U.N.-backed COVAX initiative that helps get vaccines to the world’s poor.
Any concerns about the J&J vaccine would be another unwelcome complication for COVAX and for the billions of people in developing countries depending on the program.
The blood clot reports prompted several countries in the 27-nation bloc to limit the AstraZeneca vaccine to older people. The bloc’s drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency, has authorized the AstraZeneca shot for all people 18 and over.
Dr. Adam Finn, a professor of pediatrics at Britain’s University of Bristol, said it was possible the way the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines were made may have contributed to the unusual clotting disorders in a very small proportion of people.
“This may help give us a clue towards understanding the mechanism or a way to prevent this problem from occurring,” Finn said. “Investigation of this phenomenon is now an extremely urgent international priority.”