On Thursday, South Africa’s health regulator announced a causal link between the death of an individual and Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccination. This is the first COVID vaccine-related death reported in South Africa.
According to reports, a patient who had received the J&J Covid-19 vaccination developed Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) and passed away after being hospitalized for an extended period.
According to CDC, Guillain-Barré (Ghee-YAN Bah-RAY) syndrome (GBS) happens when a person’s own immune system harms their body’s nerves. This harm causes muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis.
Professor Hannelie Meyer from the National Immunisation Safety Committee confirmed that the death was linked to the vaccine. She has also stated that no patient data, not even the province where the death happened, will be made public to protect patient anonymity because it is “such a rare disease,” the Daily Maverick reported.
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“It is a very rare event,” she said. “The person presented with the symptoms shortly after vaccination and this had led to prolonged hospitalisation, mechanical ventilation and further infections.”
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The @SAHPRA1 has confirmed the death of a person in this country after receiving the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
Director of Cochrane South Africa at the SMRC Prof Charles Wiysonge elaborates.
— Newzroom Afrika (@Newzroom405) August 4, 2022
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On 13 July, the American Food and Drug Administration revised its fact sheets for the J&J Covid-19 vaccine to include information pertaining to an observed increased risk of GBS following vaccination.
At the time there were about 100 preliminary reports of GBS in the US related to 12.5 million doses of the J&J vaccine. Of these, 95 were serious and required hospital admission. There was one reported death.
Professor Marc Blokman, who specialises in clinical pharmacology, said GBS was very rare and affected about 100,000 people worldwide every year.
He said the reported death due to the Covid-19 vaccine mirrors the situation in other countries. “It is exceedingly rare. Very few cases are reported and even fewer are confirmed as being caused by the Covid-19 vaccine.
“We are convinced that the benefits of the vaccine still greatly outweigh adverse events.”
The chairperson of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) board, Helen Rees, said the country would not have seen such a rare side-effect if the vaccine had not been rolled out to millions.
“We must be very careful to keep this event in proportion,” she said. “We must ask what is the risk of the disease itself?”
She said they were discussing the case with the World Health Organization and other regulators and can confirm that it was very, very rare.
Sahpra’s chief, Dr Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela, said this was the first death confirmed to be linked to the Covid-19 vaccine.
“There is one death after nine million doses of the vaccine,” she said.
They had assessed the deaths of 160 people up to now for possibly being caused by the Covid-19 vaccine and this was the first that had not been coincidental.
She said the investigation was still ongoing in a number of other cases.
Read more here.
Reports from the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) including non-domestic reports showed there are now over a million cases of COVID-19 vaccine adverse reactions including more than 29,000 deaths through July 22, 2022.