Healthcare workers with severe allergic reactions to COVID-19 vaccine recovering

The healthcare workers who had presented severe allergic reactions after receiving the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine are doing well.

This is according to National Department of Health (NDoH) spokesperson Popo Maja.

Maja said that one of the vaccine recipients – a female South African medical worker – had developed anaphylaxis, a severe and life-threatening allergic reaction, and had been admitted to hospital.

Information regarding the second healthcare worker will be revealed at a later stage, Maja told Netwerk24.

He stated that cases of allergic reactions to the vaccine were rare.

“The cases of anaphylaxis are being monitored globally and occur, at most, in one or two persons per million who receive the vaccine,” Maja said.

“The prevention of such a reaction is monitored through the assessment of previous allergies before the vaccine is administered,” Maja added.

These comments come after Macaya Douoguih, head of clinical development and medical affairs for J&J’s vaccines division Janssen, on Friday first revealed that the company was aware of these two cases.

Douoguih was speaking to the Federal Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, which afterwards unanimously recommended the vaccine be approved for use in the US.

According to a Centre for Disease Control (CDC) report published earlier in February, there have been 46 cases of anaphylaxis in those who received Pfizer’s vaccine and 16 cases in those who received Moderna’s.

Second vaccine batch arrives

Meanwhile, the NDoH yesterday announced that 63,648 patient-facing healthcare workers in the public and private sector had been vaccinated against COVID-19 within a week of the start of its vaccination programme.

“The Sisonke Programme is outperforming original targets for number of vaccines delivered in its first week and is set to continue this momentum in its second week as more sites come online,” the Department stated.

The SAA plane carrying a second batch of 80,000 doses of the J&J vaccine landed at OR Tambo International Airport on Saturday morning.

The flight has been labelled as a “waste of money ” and a “publicity stunt” by Grant Back, commercial airline pilot and chairman of the South African Airways Pilots Association.

According to Grant, it costs R200,000 per hour to fly the Airbus A340-600 aircraft used by SAA for this flight. With a flight time of around 10.5 hours to Brussels, it would have cost over R4 million for a return flight.

Add other costs like overflight clearances and landing fees, and the total price tag to bring home one pallet of 80,000 vaccines is around R5 million.

Grant told eNCA that it would have been possible to get a lot more vaccines into the belly space of a commercial aircraft that is flying to South Africa with passengers, which would have been a much cheaper option.

Now read: Take-home pay in South Africa falls due to COVID-19 lockdown

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Healthcare workers with severe allergic reactions to COVID-19 vaccine recovering