No South African has died from the COVID-19 jab, according to the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHRPA) which continues to investigate the safety of vaccines.
National Immunisation Safety Expert Committee (NISEC) Chairperson, Professor Hannelie Meyer, made the announcement during a webinar on self-reporting of side effects or adverse events.
Meyer said SAHPRA and NISEC have received 88 reports of death among those who have received a COVID-19 vaccine between 17 May and 31 August this year.
According to Meyer, this accounts for 0.0007% out of the 12 166 043 doses that had been administered as of the end of August.
She said 46 cases are still under investigation, while 40 have been examined and causality assessed.
“Amongst the 40 that have been causality assessed, none of those were related to any of the COVID-19 vaccines we are using in South Africa.”
Thirteen of the people died due to the COVID-19 disease.
“So, these people died because of COVID-19,” said Meyer. “They had already incubated COVID-19 at the time of vaccination or contracted COVID-19 shortly after being vaccinated before they could mount an adequate immune response.”
Meanwhile, Meyer told the public that the non-COVID-19 related deaths happened “coincidentally” after being jabbed.
According to the Professor, the majority of them had multiple comorbidities including hypertension, heart, tuberculosis, obesity and so on.
“So, they die coincidentally through vaccination because of comorbidities.”
She assured South Africans that all the data is considered by the experts before any conclusion, adding that there are six unclassified cases due to insufficient information.
“So, as you’ve seen, all this data is being considered before we come to a conclusion to say this is just coincidental to vaccination or not and there must be adequate evidence for that,” she explained.
“If we don’t have sufficient scientific evidence, then the case will end up being unclassifiable, so we can’t say it was not the vaccine causing the event or something else causing the event.”
The Professor also reminded South Africans that the SA government has been inoculating the elderly population, of which most of them suffer from chronic conditions.
“And what we also need to remember is that the main goal is to protect these people from severe illness to protect everybody from severe illness, especially the elderly population. However, they are at a higher risk of dying from COVID-19.”
She said if senior citizens are vaccinated on time, the jab could protect them.
“Still, it cannot protect them or prevent them from dying from a chronic illness.”
SAHRPA’s Pharmacovigilance Manager, Mafora Matlala, said communicating the information received about the adverse events following immunisation (AEFI) was important, particularly because of the use of the new vaccines to fight COVID-19.
An adverse event following immunisation (AEFI) is any “untoward” health event that happens after a person receives treatment but which does not necessarily have a causal relationship with the treatment.
“Monitoring the safety of medicines and vaccines, and communicating any risks is a critical priority for SAHPRA,” Motlala said.
In addition, she said the local drug watchdog would continue to monitor and inform health professionals and the public of the updated safety profiles of medicines and vaccines.
Matlala has encouraged citizens to report any AEFI by downloading the Med Safety App, designed to simplify and promote reporting of suspected adverse drug reactions (ADRs) or AEFIs.
Meanwhile, vaccinees can also visit their nearest health facility, which usually uses a paper-based format or go to the SAHPRA website. – SAnews.gov.za