Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine suffers major blow

by | Apr 14, 2021 | Business, COVID 19, International | 0 comments

Hosia Mviringi

Two major American Federal health advisory agencies called for an immediate halt to the use of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Covid-19 single-dose vaccine following the discovery of a rare trace of side effects in six recipients, which included blood clots within six weeks of vaccination.

“We are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” said Dr Peter Marks, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Centre for Biologics Evaluation and Research, and Dr Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the C.D.C., in a joint statement
“Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare,” they concluded their joint statement.
Johnson & Johnson had been hailed for a ground-breaking scientific advancement that made it the only single-dose Covid-19 vaccine on the market to date.

This decision comes hot on the heels of another setback, which saw the company recall and throw away between 13million and 15 million vaccine doses after workers at one of their subcontracting plants in Baltimore had accidentally contaminated a batch.
The latest actions by the US Drug regulators have sent shockwaves worldwide, with countries that had taken delivery of the vaccine plucking a leaf and effecting similar actions.
South Africa has just taken similar steps as the country takes steps to protect its citizens from the rare adverse side effects of the vaccine.

In a statement to the media on April 13, 2021, briefing, South African Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize indicated that the action was taken in response to the decision by the US Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation to immediately halt the use of the J&J vaccine.
“Based on their advice, we have determined to voluntarily suspend our rollout until the causal relationship between the development of clots and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is sufficiently investigated,” said Dr Zweli Mkhize.

“It’s important to be aware that with any vaccine it is essential to closely monitor its safety and efficacy. If a problem is reported following vaccination, a thorough investigation should take place,” continued Dr Mkhize in a statement.
South Africa has been using the J&J vaccine as part of its trial rollout targeting frontline workers.
It is feared that a prolonged pause in the administration of the vaccine will adversely affect the country’s long term vaccination targets.
The latest measures against Johnson and Johnson are a major setback to world efforts containing the Covid-19 pandemic following similar teething problems with AstraZeneca and Modena vaccines were proven to be ineffective against the South African B.1.351 Covid-19 variant.

These latest developments vindicate the Zimbabwean government’s choice of the vaccine when they chose to go with the Chinese Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines.
These two, with an efficacy of between 50-70 percent, ride on the completely killed virus technology, which is still the safest for human use.

The safety and efficacy of a vaccine are yet the most important variables when choosing a vaccine. A fine balance has to be struck to achieve the goal of safely protecting citizens from known pathogens.
Zimbabwe fares well in that regard so far.
Russian Sputnik V vaccine is another safe option available to date and it rides on similar whole killed virus technology. Its efficacy is at a proven level of 91.6 percent a in a test conducted in India.