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Booster shots ’not the priority right now’ as SA Covid-19 vaccine supply remains limited

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Earlier this month, the WHO called for a temporary moratorium on Covid-19 booster shots to ensure equitable access globally to Covid-19 vaccines. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Earlier this month, the WHO called for a temporary moratorium on Covid-19 booster shots to ensure equitable access globally to Covid-19 vaccines.

Cape Town – With wealthier nations making headway by rolling out Covid-19 booster shots, the majority of the world is trailing behind, battling to administer first doses to its population.

This as a new potential Covid-19 variant of interest, C.1.2 lineage, has been identified in South Africa.

The Network for Genomics Surveillance in South Africa first detected the mutation in May. It has been detected in all provinces at a relatively low frequency from May to August.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the national Department of Health were alerted to C.1.2 in July.

Earlier this month, the WHO called for a temporary moratorium on Covid-19 booster shots to ensure equitable access globally to Covid-19 vaccines.

Last week, Johnson & Johnson announced data to support boosting its single-shot Covid-19 vaccine.

The interim data shows that the booster shot provided a rapid and robust increase in spike-binding antibodies, nine-fold higher than 28 days after the primary single-dose vaccination.

University of Cape Town School of Public Health and Family Medicine head Professor Landon Myer said in the following months, booster doses are likely to become a regular feature in their approach to Covid-19 vaccinations.

“These are starting to come into recommendations in high-income countries like the US, noting that the evidence is not great, and the specific recommendation for booster doses will depend on the vaccination coverage of the population, the vaccine that was received previously by a given individual, as well as the health history and status of the individual in question.”

Myer said the data on boosting was still being generated and it was therefore hard to make definitive recommendations now.

“Boosting is very unlikely to be unsafe, but how and when to best administer booster vaccinations is still being determined.

“In South Africa and other low- and middle-income countries, I think the need to achieve high population coverage of the ‘first round’ of vaccination is a bigger concern right now than the possible benefits of rolling-out booster doses,” said Myer.

National Health Laboratory Service virologist Dr Marvin Hsiao said the country should not consider booster shots — at least not broadly — while the vaccine supply remains fairly limited.

“We are mainly using the vaccine to reduce mortality and severe disease, not controlling infection, so we need data to show that vaccine protection against severe disease is compromised.

“When clinical data that show boosters is definitely needed to prevent severe disease, I am sure that is when they will be considered by WHO and our vaccine ministerial advisory committee.”

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Cape Argus

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