Updated Covid vaccine rules for South Africa

The National Department of Health has published a new circular detailing adjusted Covid-19 vaccine dosing intervals, and the introduction of ‘mix-and-match’ dosing for adults.

The circular only addresses the Pfizer Cominarty and the Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccines and does not provide guidelines for the recently adopted Sinopharm vaccine.

According to the director-general for health, Dr Sandile Buthelezi, the following changes will take place:

Pfizer vaccine:

  • From 23 February, people that received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine can get their second dose after 21 days (previously, this was 42 days).
  • People that received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine can get their third booster dose after 90 days (previously this was 180 days).

Johnson & Johnson vaccine:

  • From 21 February 2022, people that received their first dose of the J&J vaccine can get their second booster dose after 60 days.

Mixing vaccines

Also from 23 February 2022, South Africans will be allowed to mix and match the Pfizer and J&J vaccines, depending on availability. While the department has opened up this option to adults over 18, it still recommends that the same vaccine types be used, where available.

  • People who have received one dose of the J&J vaccine can get a dose of the Pfizer vaccine after 60 days
  • People who have received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine can get a dose of the J&J vaccine after 90 days

 

“If both vaccines are available, homologous (same vaccine) boosting should be preferred, unless the vaccine requests to receive a heterologous (mixed vaccine) booster dose, or has a history of experiencing an adverse event following immunisation,” the department said.

It added that all doses must be recovered in the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS), which is also being updated to allow those who did not receive their primary Covid vaccination in South Africa – but are eligible to get a booster – to register. This is still being worked on, however, and more information for when this system will be available will be communicated.

Pfizer vaccine schedule

First dose Interval Second dose Interval Booster
Pfizer Cominarty Min. 21 days Pfizer Cominarty Min. 90 days Pfizer Cominarty OR Johnson & Johnson Janssen

J&J vaccine schedule

First dose Interval Booster
Johnson & Johnson Janssen Min. 60 days Johnson & Johnson Janssen OR Pfizer Cominarty

Other changes

The changes to vaccination rules comes after the Department of Health announced updated quarantining and contact rules at the start of February.

Under the new rules, people with asymptomatic (no symptoms) Covid infections do not need to isolate. However, they should be advised to:

  • Wear a mask whenever interacting with people, for the next five days from the date of the test;
  • Avoid social gatherings (3 or more people) for five days from the date of the test;
  • Avoid being with others socially in indoor spaces, for five days from the date of the test;
  • Specifically, avoid socially interacting with the elderly ( over 60 years) and anyone with co-morbidities for five days from the date of the test.

Those with symptomatic Covid infection who have mild disease should isolate for seven days from the date of start of symptoms. There is no need for testing prior to de-isolation.

All quarantine and active contact tracing will be stopped. This applies to everyone including health care workers.


Read: Health regulator registers Chinese Sinopharm Covid vaccine for use in South Africa

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Updated Covid vaccine rules for South Africa