The South African medicines regulator has reported two fatal cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a rare neurological condition, in people who had received the anti-COVID vaccine from the American laboratory Johnson & Johnson (J&J).
The Health Authority (SAHPRA) reported the first death on August 4.
“SAHPRA has been informed of a second fatal case of Guillain-Barré syndrome following vaccination with Janssen’s COVID-19 vaccine,” it said in a statement on Monday.
Contacted by AFP, J&J pointed out in a written response on Tuesday that “very rare cases of the neurological disorder, Guillain-Barré syndrome, have been reported after vaccination with the Janssen vaccine against COVID-19, most occurring during the first 42 days after vaccination”.
“GBS is a very rare, but serious adverse reaction that is associated with the administration of various vaccines and other medications and can also be triggered by infections such as SARS-CoV-2,” the lab added, without refer directly to the South African cases.
SAHPRA did not give further details of the deceased patients, citing “medical secrecy”.
However, it had noted in its statement that “the events reported in the vaccinated person met the case definition of GBS and no other probable cause of GBS has been identified”.
Guillain-Barré syndrome is an attack of the peripheral nerves characterized by weakness or even progressive paralysis, most often beginning in the legs and sometimes ascending to reach the muscles of respiration and then the nerves of the head and neck. .
South Africa, officially the African country most affected by the pandemic, has recorded more than four million cases of coronavirus and 102,129 deaths.
Of the population of 60 million, 20.3 million South Africans have been vaccinated. More than 9.2 million have received the vaccine from J&J and 12.5 million from the Pfizer laboratory, according to official figures.