South Africa halts J&J vaccine jabs; Europe rollout delayed

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Boxes of Janssen vaccines sit at a warehouse of Hungaropharma, a Hungarian pharmaceutical wholesale company, in Budapest, Hungary, after the arrival of the first batch of the Johnson & Johnson, US, made one-dose vaccine against the new coronavirus in the country Tuesday, April 13, 2021. The first shopment contains 28 thousand doses of Janssen. (Szilard Koszticsak/MTI via AP)

BERLIN – South Africa suspended giving Johnson & Johnson vaccine shots Tuesday as a “precautionary measure” and the company delayed its European vaccine rollout following an FDA decision to pause the jabs while very rare blood clot cases are examined.

South Africa has given more than 289,000 doses of the J&J vaccine to the country’s health workers without any reports of rare blood clots, Health Minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize told reporters.

He said South Africa was halting the use of J&J jabs “out of an abundance of caution” and expected that questions over the J&J vaccine should “be cleared within a matter of days.”

Mkhize said “in the unlikely event” that the J&J vaccines are permanently halted, South Africa would continue with its vaccination campaign in May using doses from Pfizer-BioNTech.

Earlier, Johnson & Johnson said it was delaying the rollout of its coronavirus vaccine across Europe amid the U.S. probe, a move that experts worried could further shake vaccine confidence and complicate worldwide COVID-19 immunization efforts.

The announcement came after regulators in the United States said they were recommending a “pause” in the single-dose shot to investigate reports of rare but potentially dangerous blood clots.

“We have made the decision to proactively delay the rollout of our vaccine in Europe,” Johnson & Johnson said.

The delay is a further blow to vaccination efforts in the European Union, which have been plagued by supply shortages, logistical problems and concerns over unusual blood clots in a small number of people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine.