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J&J vaccine suspension lifted

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Cabinet has welcomed the recommendation by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority to lift the suspension of the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) Sisonke Vaccination Programme.

This followed the suspension of the J&J vaccination rollout programme in the United States of America after six people, who received the J&J vaccine, developed a rare type of blood clot.

Another reason for the temporary suspension was the decision by J&J to voluntarily suspend the rollout of their vaccine in the Eurozone.

Briefing the media on the outcomes of the Cabinet meeting held on Wednesday, Acting Minister in The Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, said the temporary suspension of the vaccine in South Africa was in line with government’s commitment to ensure that comprehensive safety measures are undertaken regarding the vaccine rollout.

“The reviewed data had confirmed that South Africa had not experienced any rare blood clots with the already vaccinated healthcare workers (HCWs). Our scientists will continue to monitor all South Africans as and when they are vaccinated,” Ntshavheni said.

By mid-April 2021, more than 292 623 South African HCWs had been vaccinated under the Sisonke Vaccination Programme.

Signing of contract with J&J on vaccine procurement

Cabinet has also welcomed the progress in the signing of the contract with J&J on the procurement of J&J vaccines for the full rollout programme.

Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize and Trade, Industry and Competition Minister, Ebrahim Patel, have been commended for resolving the outstanding matters relating to the procurement of the vaccines without compromising the position of South Africa.

Fifteen million to be vaccinated with Pfizer vaccine

Furthermore, Cabinet welcomed the successful negotiation of an additional 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which brings the total doses of the Pfizer vaccine to 30 million.

“This means South Africa will be able to vaccinate 15 million people with the Pfizer vaccine instead of just 10 million,” Ntshavheni said.

To prepare for Phase 2 of the vaccination rollout programme starting on 17 May 2021, Cabinet has encouraged people aged 60 years and older to register on the Electronic Vaccination Data System: https://vaccine.enroll.health.gov.za.

“People without access to the internet can register in person at over 3 338 vaccination sites across the country. Mobile teams will also be deployed to assist the elderly, the homeless and people living in rural areas,” the Minister said.

South Africans commended for adherence to health protocols

Meanwhile, Cabinet has commended South Africans for their continued adherence to the non-pharmaceutical health protocols of wearing a mask when in public spaces, maintaining social distancing of about 1.5 metres and always washing hands with soap and water or using a 70% alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

However, Cabinet noted the report which indicated a slight increase of 4,9% in persons testing positive in the past 14 days, by 18 April 2021.

The cases increased from 14 113 in the preceding 14 days to 14 807 cases in the last 14 days.

“The slight increase in cases is attributed to cluster resurgences in the Free State and Northern Cape, and rapid response teams have been activated to conduct contact tracing,” Ntshavheni said.