South Africa’s health authorities disclosed a causal relationship between an individual’s death and Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) (JNJ.N) COVID-19 vaccination on Thursday, the first time such a direct link has been established in the country.

The individual developed the uncommon neurological condition Guillain-Barre Syndrome shortly after receiving J&J’s vaccination, and was placed on a ventilator before dying, according to top scientists during a press conference.

Professor Hannelie Meyer said, “At the time of illness no other cause for the Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) could be identified,”

For reasons of confidentiality, the person’s age and other personal information were not released.

Last July, US officials added a warning to a datasheet for J&J’s vaccine, stating that research indicated an elevated risk of GBS in the six weeks after immunization. It reported 100 early reports of GBS among vaccination recipients at the time, including 95 severe cases and one reported death. 

J&J did not react quickly to an emailed request for comment. The business said at the time of the U.S. warning that it was in negotiations with authorities, and that the incidence of reported instances of GBS among J&J vaccination recipients only slightly above the background rate.

GBS was included as a potential adverse effect of AstraZeneca’s COVID vaccine, which, like J&J’s, employs viral vector technology, by Europe’s drugs regulator last year. 

South Africa’s Health Minister Joe Phaahla said at a press conference on Thursday that as of mid-July, there had been slightly over 6,200 “adverse events” recorded to SAHPRA out of over 37 million COVID vaccination doses delivered in the country, equating to 0.017 percent.

According to Semete-Makokotlela, the regulator has reviewed roughly 160 fatalities since the COVID immunization deployment began but has yet to find a direct relationship to vaccination.

South Africa’s COVID immunization program has used J&J and Pfizer vaccines. The rollout began slowly owing to supply issues and long talks with pharmaceutical firms, but it has since been hampered by hesitation.

Approximately 46 percent of its 40 million adult population is now completely immunized.

Source: Reuters

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