The Department of Health will expand its vaccination drive to offer a third booster shot to South Africans who have had two Pfizer vaccinations and will offer a second shot to children between the ages of 12 – 17.
In a media briefing on Friday (10 December), the department’s acting director-general Dr Nicholas Crisp said that second shots for children officially opened to children on Thursday. Previously children in this age group were only permitted to have one dose due to concerns around potential heart inflammation known as myocarditis.
However, subsequent research has shown that these vaccines are safe and that Covid-19 infection was actually responsible for the inflammation, said Crisp.
The department of health said children who have already had one dose of the vaccine can receive their second dose at least 42 days after the first jab.
It said that these jabs will be available at both public and private vaccination sites, but that it would not be introducing vaccinations as part of the official school programme. This decision will be reviewed in 2022, it said.
The table below covers the timelines for the new shots:
|Vaccine||Age group||Wait period||Available|
|J&J second dose||Healthcare workers (Sisonke)||N/A||10 November 2021|
|Pfizer second dose||Children 12 – 17||42 days after first dose||9 December 2021|
|Pfizer third dose||18 and older||6 months after second dose||January 2022|
|J&J second dose||TBD||TBD||Early 2022|
Crisp said that Pfizer boosters will be given to South Africans six months after they have received their second primary shot.
The first cohort of South Africans who qualify for a third booster should receive one from 28 December 2021, however, because of the holiday period and New Year’s day, the booster is set to be available from early January, he said.
He added that older South Africans will be the first people to be given booster shots, as these were the people first given shots as part of the original Covid-19 vaccine rollout.
The acting director-general also confirmed that South Africans who received a single Johnson & Johnson shot will also qualify for a booster shot, with further consultations around logistics and approvals set to take place in the coming week.
As with the Pfizer booster shot, these are set to be rolled out to South Africans in early 2022, Crisp said.
Pfizer vs Omicron
Omicron’s ability to evade vaccine and infection-induced immunity is “robust but not complete,” said the research head of a laboratory at the Africa Health Research Institute in South Africa.
In the first reported experiments gauging the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines against the worrisome new strain, researchers at the institute found that the variant could partially evade the vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech.
Still, its evasion wasn’t complete and a booster shot could provide additional protection, Alex Sigal said in an online presentation on Tuesday.
“Current vaccines have shown to be effective, even as this wave has been spreading because the significant number of almost in many reports we have received suggests that 70% of those who have been admitted to hospital are those who are unvaccinated,” said health minister Dr Joe Phaahla on Friday.
“So it is important to continue to use all the non-pharmaceutical protective measures which we all know such as wearing masks, good ventilation, avoiding crowded places, washing hands and sanitising.”
On Thursday (10 December), South Africa reported 22,391 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 3,093,452.
Deaths have reached 90,060 (+22), while recoveries have climbed to 2,870,329, leaving the country with a balance of 133,063 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 26,917,603 (+135,961).