SA researchers hope to next week resume a study using Johnson & Johnson's (J&J) Covid-19 vaccine to immunise health-care workers, SA Medical Research Council president Glenda Gray said on Wednesday.

The government suspended the study last week after US federal health agencies recommended pausing use of J&J’s vaccine because of rare cases of blood clots.

“We do hope to start again next week,” Gray, co-principal investigator of the Sisonke study, said during a webinar on Wednesday.

So far about 290,000 health workers have been given J&J’s vaccine in the study, which is further evaluating the shot before the first commercial batch of doses becomes available later this month.

The government says it has secured 31-million doses of J&J’s one-shot vaccine and 30-million doses of Pfizer’s two-dose vaccine, and is counting on them to be able to ramp up vaccinations after a slow start. It expects Pfizer to supply shots from early May.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize said on Tuesday that officials were still consulting about restarting the J&J vaccine study but that he was “quite comfortable” the matter would be resolved soon.

For the Sisonke study to resume, Gray said researchers needed to get informed consent processes approved and make sure there were mechanisms in place to identify health workers with clotting disorders.

Through its agreements with J&J and Pfizer, the government has secured enough vaccines for 46-million of its roughly 60-million population.


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