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HomeNews UpdateConfirmation of second GBS death after J&J jab brings closure for widow

Confirmation of second GBS death after J&J jab brings closure for widow

The SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) has confirmed that a second person has died from Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) after receiving the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine – the first death happened early last month – bringing closure to a Cape Town woman who has been trying for a year to get answers related to her late husband’s death.

SAHPRA said the National Immunisation Safety Expert Committee (NISEC) did a causality assessment of the case using the World Health Organization’s (WHO) methodology, and classified the death as a vaccine product-related event, reports Health-e News.

GBS is a very rare but potentially severe neurological adverse event associated with administering various vaccines and other medicines. Some bacterial or viral infections, including SARS-CoV-2, can also trigger it, said SAHPRA.

Nicole Davids, whose husband Larry died a year ago after he’d received the J&J jab, has been asking, in vain, for answers from the Western Cape Health Department relating to his death.

He was diagnosed with GBS after falling violently ill soon after his J&J shot, News24 reported. His wife took him to Victoria Hospital where he received medication, but he collapsed a day later. She then took him to Groote Schuur Hospital where he was placed on a ventilator, and soon afterwards, diagnosed with GBS. He died a month later, in September last year.

News24 previously pressed the Western Cape health department for answers around the death of Davids, but spokesperson Mark van der Heever would not provide details.

Davids took her query directly to SAHPRA, which, after investigations, confirmed her husband was the country’s second death from GBS linked to the J&J jab.

"The events reported in the vaccine recipient were consistent with the case definition of GBS, and no other likely cause of GBS was identified at the time of illness," said SAHPRA chief executive Dr Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela on Monday this week.

Speaking to News24, Davids confirmed she’d had a meeting with health officials on Monday who confirmed his death was linked to the vaccine, saying they’d apologised to her for her husband’s death that was never reported to them last year.

“They said I didn’t deserve what happened to me and that I was supposed to have been treated properly.”

GBS, which affects around 100 000 people a year globally, is characterised by muscle weakness, muscle pain, numbness, and tingling, said Semete-Makokotlela.

“In many cases, it resolves with no serious after-effects, but in some cases, GBS can cause serious or life-threatening problems.”

Semete-Makokotlela said regulatory authorities have previously investigated reports of GBS associated with COVID-19 vaccines.

“They concluded the Janssen vaccine may increase the risk of GBS, so it’s therefore listed as a rare adverse event in the professional information for this vaccine,” she said.

SAHPRA said the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the very low risk of severe adverse events, including GBS.

So far, 37 544 120 vaccines have been administered in South Africa. A total number of 9 210 329 J&J vaccine doses have been administered, the bulk of these in Gauteng.


Health-e News article – GBS death: second fatality after J&J vaccine (Open access)


News24 article – Health officials apologise after man dies from 'very rare' syndrome linked to J&J Covid-19 jab (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


One year on, still no answers for man’s GBS death after J&J vaccine


First SA death directly linked to vaccine, but 37.5m others safe, says Sahpra


Blow for J&J vaccine as CDC downgrades it over rare blood clots


J&J booster 84% effective against hospitalisation — Sisonke 2


Some experiencing side-effects from J&J vaccine


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