The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), along with other professional medical and scientific institutions released a statement distancing themselves from the Commission for Gender Equality’s (CGE) press release of 16 January, 2022, titled “Warning Against Imposing Mandatory Covid-19 Vaccination on Employees and Students”. [PDF]
The CGE cited an article published in Obstetrics and Gynaecology which found that women receiving Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or J&J COVID vaccines, vaccine administration was associated with less than a one-day change in cycle length for both vaccine-dose cycles compared with pre-vaccine cycles. The article concluded that clinically meaningful change in menstrual cycle duration associated with COVID vaccination was found.
The CGE used this study as justification, cautioning businesses and institutions against mandatory vaccination and recommended against sanctions for employees who chose to remain vaccinated.
The signatories expressed their concern at the contents of the statement which is at odds with the scientific understanding of COVID vaccinations, a concern which is compounded by the “enormous influence” of the GCE.
They accept that the vaccine mandates are subject to legal scrutiny, but take issue with the commission “trying to bolster its argument by wrongly insinuating that COVID vaccination has the potential to harm women’s health.”
They also point out that the commission seems to disregard the much greater risks to women and their unborn babies of COVID infection, while misinterpreting evidence on minor menstrual cycle lengthening. This creates fear and confusion in vaccinated women, and may increase vaccine hesitancy.
“It fails to appreciate that one in six unvaccinated pregnant women admitted to hospital in South Africa with COVID infection requires mechanical ventilation, and one in 16 has a fatal outcome,” the signatories stated.
They noted that COVID vaccination provides upwards of 80% protection against severe disease, hospitalisation and death.
They endorse the view of the College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of South Africa, which draws on research of the highest quality, that the menstrual effects are minor.
The evidence is “indisputable” that COVID vaccination is safe, does not negatively affect women’s bodies and saves the lives of women, they stress. Statements to the contrary are strongly repudiated.
“We are of the view that the CGE, like all state institutions, medical and scientific bodies, social partners and civil society formations working in the fields of women’s rights, empowerment and equality, should urge women to get vaccinated and advance and defend their rights to all relevant information about and access to vaccination.”
The signatories call on the CGE to withdraw its 16 January statement and to share with it scientific facts on COVID vaccination and women’s health.