Africa CDC says no cause for alarm over reports of Johnson & Johnson vaccine causing blood clots

Vials with a sticker reading,
Vials with a sticker reading, "COVID-19 / Coronavirus vaccine / Injection only" and a medical syringe are seen in front of a displayed Johnson & Johnson logo in this illustration taken October 31, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo/File Photo/File Photo

Africa’s leading health think tank, the Africa CDC, now says that there is no cause for alarm over the latest reports of blood clots in recipients of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

The continental public health agency says the cases are extremely rare and the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risk. The use of the vaccine has been paused in the united states over what officials called abundance of caution.

Amid a supply crisis of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the African continent was already looking for an alternative in the US-manufactured Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Under the plan, the African Union had announced plans to import some 400 million doses of the jab to cushion the continent from global supply constraints.

The Africa Centre for Disease Control (CDC) now says the  decision by the US health regulator to halt the administration of the vaccine, was simply precautionary and will not affect Africa’s plans.

At the moment we do not have any reason to advise for pausing or stopping Johnson & Johnson vaccination process because all evidence is showing it is working well… there are no serious side effects in significant numbers… The small numbers are being studied. We continue to study what other countries are experiencing through Johnson & Johnson vaccine use,” said Dr. Ahmed Ogwell, Deputy Director, Africa CDC.

US Federal health agencies on Tuesday called for an immediate pause in use of the vaccine citing a rare blood clotting disorder in six people who received the vaccine out of a total of nearly seven million people who have received the vaccine, translating to one in more than one million people.

Out of the six cases reported, one person has died while another is in critical care. The maker of the vaccine Johnson & Johnson saying in a statement that no direct link has been established between the adverse symptoms and the vaccine.

The Africa CDC maintains that the benefits are still way greater than any potential risk.

“Remember Johnson & Johnson is already in use in South Africa and the results are encouraging and we will continue with our plans to import the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” added Dr.Ogwell.

A similar debate ensued in Europe in the last few days over the AstraZeneca vaccine which is currently being administered in Kenya. But the specialised health institution says the side effects are not out of the ordinary.

“The reaction you get… Fever, tiredness, is a testimony that the vaccine is working… Vaccines cause body to produce antibodies… That production of antibodies shows the vaccine is working and your body is responding appropriately to that vaccine,” Dr. Ogwell pointed out.

The organisation that works under the African Union is however encouraging active reporting of all the side effects experienced for better management and collection of data.  Kenya is among several African countries expecting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to boost it’s vaccination drive.

The developments came as the Ministry of Health initiated a refund process for those who paid for the now suspended Russian vaccine Sputnik V but did not receive the jab. The government is assuring those who got the first shot that they will be guaranteed the second one within the recommended timelines.

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Story By Mashirima Kapombe
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