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South Africa resumes Covid vaccination drive

 Image: Asian Development Bank [CC BY-NC 2.0], via Flickr

Pregnant and breastfeeding women will be excluded

The South African Medical Research Council has restarted vaccinating health workers against Covid-19 after suspending the programme because of reports of blood clots in the United States.

The Sisonke study, a phase 3b clinical study to vaccinate health workers, restarted on 28 April. It uses the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and is currently the only vaccination drive in the country. None of the other vaccine candidates are in use in South Africa.

The study was temporarily suspended on 13 April following reports of blood clot disorders in eight US patients. No similar adverse effects were observed in the almost 300,000 South African recipients of the vaccine.

The South African Health Product Regulatory Authority requested that pregnant or breastfeeding women should not receive the jab in the resumed study.

The SAMRC said that it will adhere to the SAHPRA decision but said available data and international bodies suggest the vaccine should be safe for these women.

“We have taken all necessary precautions and preparations to resume vaccination for non-pregnant and non-breastfeeding health workers so that we can deliver the 200,000 doses of [the vaccine] we have at hand to ensure we protect half a million health workers before the third wave,” the SAMRC said in a statement.