j&j vaccine pregnant women

SA resumes J&J vaccine drive with bad news for pregnant women

Andile Sicetsha - 26.04.2021

Welcomed news on the resumption of the vaccine drive in SA came with a spanner — Pregnant women are not advised to take the jab – Here’s why:

The resumption of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine drive has brought relief to a panicked South Africa but not the same can be said for pregnant women, unfortunately.

J&J vaccine ban lifted: Here’s why

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize went to great lengths in detailing the way forward for the country’s hackered inoculation drive, in an interview with eNCA.

He confirmed that after a two-week review of all available data, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) greenlit the lift on the Janssen Pharmaceuticals jab.

The pause in the Sisonke phase of the vaccine drive was necessitated by alarming reports of six candidates who’d developed a rare blood clotting condition shortly after taking the single-dose jab.

Observing these unique cases next to a dataset of more than six million J&J jabs gave the global health industry hope that this was more of an isolated incident than a crisis.

Following the rigorous data review, SAHPRA submitted a recommendation for the resumption of the vaccine drive, a nod that was reciprocated by Cabinet.

“These conditions include, but are not limited to, strengthened screening and monitoring of participants who are at high risk of a blood clotting disorder. In addition, measures are to be implemented to ensure the safe management of any participants who develop vaccine-induced thrombosis and thrombocytopenia (VITT). The participant information sheets and informed consent forms will be updated to include the newly identified adverse events,” SAHPRA noted in a statement.

Therefore, SA’s inoculation drive will resume on Wednesday, 28 April, according to Minister Mkhize.

Can pregnant women get vaccinated? – These are your options

The vaccine programme will continue with healthcare workers at the front of the line, with seniors aged 60 and above expected to join the inoculation drive in June 2021.

SAHPRA and other health regulatory authorities around the world have, since the blood-clotting developments in J&J, advised pregnant women against taking the jab.

While the likelihood of developing blood clots after receiving a J&J jab is 0.00009% (or nine in 10 million), pregnant women are at greater odds since already, their risk of clotting in their natal journey is fivefold.

According to the CDC, a pregnant woman’s blood clots easily “to lessen blood loss during labour and delivery.”

“Natural changes in a woman’s body during pregnancy, childbirth and the three-month period after delivery can put women at higher risk for a blood clot,” the CDC noted.

Currently, the Sisonke programme is not accepting registrations from healthcare workers with ‘buns in the oven’, or new moms.

To-date, South Africa has vaccinated more than 280 000 healthcare workers.