If you’ve heard the latest news, you’re probably worried that SA has paused the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This after six women in the US reported blood clotting – a potentially fatal side effect. The US and EU have also hit the brakes on J&J. 

For South Africans this is yet another hope dashed. We had to stop the AstraZeneca vaccine too over concerns about its limited effectiveness against the dominant local variant. The J&J jab was supposed to be our great hope. Are we ever going to catch a break??

But we think it’s going to be OK. Here’s why:

◾️1. ZERO cases of blood clotting were reported in SA among the 290 000 healthcare workers who participated in the first phase of our rollout, the Sisonke trial. 

◾️2. The pause is just that: authorities are hoping it’s only for a few days while they study the link with clotting. Many local experts think we should continue its rollout because there have been no local cases of clotting and “the one in a million risk is very rare”. 

◾️3. With more vaccines becoming globally available, SA has secured enough of a third vaccine, by Pfizer-BioNTech, for 15 million people. The first batch is expected to arrive on 3 May, just ahead of when we’re supposed to start phase 2 of our rollout, targeting vulnerable groups and the elderly. Together with the J&J vaccines for 31 million people SA will have enough doses to exceed its target to vaccinate 40 million of our population. 

Remember: if any person feels uncomfortable, they don’t HAVE to get the vaccine. And if you check the side effects of any medication you regularly take, you’d be surprised at what you’ll find. Don’t get us started on birth control. 😷

Financially, continuing also makes sense. We’ve already made an initial payment for 31 million vaccines from J&J… which is not refundable. Yup. Mkhize said officials tried to push back against this clause but the pharmaceutical company refused. And you’ll remember we were rather desperate for vaccines at the time. Mkhize said they checked with other territories which seemed to have the same clause. (This is one of many unethical practices by big pharma.)

Luckily we seem to have recovered most of our money on those AstraZeneca vaccines we were stuck with. Mkhize says we sold it for what we paid for it, mostly to the African Union seemed to have worked out. Whew.

 This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 15 April 2021. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.