The Janssen® (Johnson and Johnson) vaccine (single shot) and the Comirnaty® (Pfizer) vaccine (two shots) are available in South Africa.
According to the Western Cape Department of Health: “ All COVID vaccines contain instructions for the spike protein on the coronavirus. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine contains an adenovirus which has been modified so that it cannot cause disease or multiply in humans. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine contains a messenger RNA (mRNA) fragment. The vaccines naturally disintegrate within days after they have instructed your immune system to respond to the spike protein on the coronavirus.”
The department listed the following non-active ingredients:Johnson and Johnson vaccine:
• Sodium chloride
• Citric acid monohydrate buffer
• Polysorbate 80
• 2 hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin (HBCD)
• Ethanol (absolute)
• Sodium hydroxide
• Water for injection
• ALC-0315 = (4-hydroxybutyl) azanediyl) bis (hexane-6,1-diyl) bis(2-hexyldecanoate)
• ALC-0159 = 2-[(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide
• potassium chloride
• potassium dihydrogen phosphate
• sodium chloride
• disodium hydrogen phosphate dihydrate
• water for injections
“The only contra-indication to any of the COVID-19 vaccines is an allergy to any of the ingredients included in the vaccines. If you have had a severe allergic reaction to any of these components, you should not get that vaccine. Also, if a person has had a severe allergic reaction after the first dose of the Comirnaty® (Pfizer) vaccine, they should not get the second dose. Having an allergy to any other medication or vaccine (e.g., Penicillin) does not exclude you from being vaccinated,” said Dr Amminah Martin from the Campus Health Care Centre at the University of the Western Cape (UWC).
“You should, however, mention this to your vaccinator so that it can be noted, and your observation time following vaccination would most likely be increased from 15 minutes to 30 minutes. To date, there are no other medical conditions that would exclude an individual from getting the vaccine. If there is a concern about chronic conditions such as those causing immunosuppression, or any chronic medication like those for clot prevention, those individuals should speak to their regular doctor about how to go about being vaccinated.”
She explained that should a vaccine become available which does not cause an allergic reaction to the individual; the person would be eligible to get vaccinated.
Early studies have suggested insufficient evidence regarding the effects on pregnant women and if it is safe for the mother and the unborn baby. But on 31 August 2021, the Vaccine Ministerial Committee (VMAC) updated its recommendations due to increased evidence supporting the vaccination of pregnant and breastfeeding women.
“The recommendations are now that any woman, irrespective of the stage of pregnancy, and during lactation, can be vaccinated with either the Janssen® (J&J) vaccine or the Comirnaty® (Pfizer) vaccine. The VMAC continues to monitor the effectiveness and safety of all vaccines in pregnant and lactating women included in the vaccine rollout,” said Dr Martin.
PROF FIELDING WEIGHS INProfessor Burtram Fielding, virologist and UWC’s Director of Research and Development, said the Western Cape Department of Health reported that all COVID vaccines contain instructions for the spike protein on the coronavirus.
The Johnson and Johnson vaccine contains an adenovirus which has been modified so that it cannot cause disease or multiply in humans. The SARS-CoV-2 genetic material, in this case a DNA fragment, is found within this adenovirus.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine contains a messenger RNA (mRNA) fragment, surrounded by a thin layer of lipids (fats).
“Both the adenovirus and the thin layer of lipids are responsible for delivering the DNA or RNA into the vaccinated person's cells. The vaccines naturally disintegrate within days after they have instructed your immune system to respond to the spike protein on the coronavirus. Many of the non-active ingredients are used in other vaccines and medications and are considered safe for human use,” said Prof Fielding.