WHO Africa: Benefits of COVID vaccine far outweigh the risks

Vaccine safety was the theme of a virtual discussion being hosted by the World Health Organization's regional leaders earlier on Thursday.

FILE: South Africa has temporarily paused further rollout of the J&J vaccine, pending an investigation by the US Food and Drug Administration to determine the cause of these cases. Picture: 123rf.co.

CAPE TOWN – The World Health Organisation Africa on Thursday said the benefit of COVID-19 vaccinations outweighed its risks.

Vaccine safety was the theme of a virtual discussion being hosted by the World Health Organization's regional leaders earlier on Thursday.

The briefing follows recent developments regarding blood clotting cases recorded in the United States, after six women there received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 jab.

South Africa has temporarily paused further rollout of the J&J vaccine, pending an investigation by the US Food and Drug Administration to determine the cause of these cases.

READ: Zweli Mkhize: SA to temporarily suspend rollout of J&J vaccine

Defending the benefit of vaccination, Immunization and Vaccine Development Programme Coordinator for WHO Africa, Doctor Richard Mihigo, stressed that nearly three million people globally had died of COVID-19.

“The WHO global advisory committee on vaccine safety is closely following developments and will share any findings as soon as possible. WHO considers that the benefits of vaccine far outweighs the risks.”

Mihigo said Africa's mechanisms to monitor the safe rollout of vaccines were working well.

“All African have a safety surveillance system in place and are reporting on any side-effects that and severe adverse events that occur following vaccination.”

He says 45 African countries have started vaccination campaigns, with around 13.8 million doses administered so far.

South African Health Products Regulatory Authority CEO, Dr Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela, also joined the discussion and elaborated on the move to temporarily pause the rollout.

“The safety of participants is quite critical but also we need to look at the totality of evidence. It would be prudent for us as the regulator to reflect on the data from the US, particularly since they’ve vaccinated much larger numbers than we have. In the Sisonke study, we’ve only vaccinated just around 290,000 or so health workers.”

Over 4.3 million people on the continent have contracted COVID-19 and more than 116,000 have died.

WATCH: Why we suspended the J&J COVID-19 vaccine rollout