Home South African Health workers in line for Covid booster shots, says Health dept

Health workers in line for Covid booster shots, says Health dept

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The national Health Department has confirmed that front-line health workers who were among the first to be vaccinated against Covid-19 are to receive booster shots.

File picture: Bongani Mbatha/African News Agency (ANA)

THE NATIONAL Health Department has confirmed that front-line health-care workers who were among the first to be vaccinated against Covid-19 are to receive booster vaccines.

Health Department spokesperson Foster Mohale said that from November 8 the department would be announcing where the Covid-19 vaccination booster vaccine could be taken by front-line health workers.

Mohale said the department and international studies had confirmed that the efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccine started waning after eight months, and priority workers needed to be given a booster shot.

“We are taking a first-in-line approach with the roll-out of the vaccine programme for almost 500,000 workers who had received the initial one-dose vaccine from J&J. We are hoping during the week to finalise either dedicated sites for the booster vaccine or to announce whether existing sites would be offering the booster shots.

“As per the initial vaccine roll-out programme announcement, our priority remains front-line health workers, the immuno-compromised, the elderly, and those with comorbidities as the priority groups to receive the booster vaccine,” Mohale said.

He added the department was still weighing whether it would take the same approach of inclusion for the rest of the population according to age groups.

The department was expecting that there would be those who would be unwilling to come back for a booster vaccine. “We do anticipate that we might have resistance to come back which is why we are currently on an aggressive campaign with priority groups to engage and explain why there is a need for a booster Covid-19 vaccine and explain the benefit of the booster shot,” he said.

“One of the benefits is that front-line workers would protect themselves and their loved ones as they are most affected. We lost a lot of health staff in the initial waves without the vaccine and we now have science to show them that the vaccine has slowed down the spread of the pandemic.

“We don’t want to lose any more health workers – as the backbone of curbing the pandemic spread. For us, this is also an opportunity to reach those who had not participated in the first round of vaccinations. We are asking people to come to vaccine sites in their numbers because we anticipate a fourth wave by the end of the year; we have to get as many people possible vaccinated before then.”

The SA Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and health department said the target was to reach the 496,424 health workers that participated in the early Covid-19 vaccine Sisonke study between February 17 and May 17.

Professor Glenda Gray, one of the co-national principal investigators of the Sisonke study, said: “By rolling out the Sisonke study, we bought valuable time for health-care workers, and were able to protect them four months ahead of the national roll-out and ahead of the Delta-driven third wave.”

The SAMRC said it estimated that more than 5.2 million people in South Africa had received at least one dose of the J&J vaccine.

Co-national investigator, Professor Linda-Gail Bekker said: “Sisonke was an important intervention to protect our front-line health-care workers. Now it is important to ensure that protection is topped up with this boost ahead of potential new Covid-19 surges.”

The SAMRC and the Health Department said health workers who participated in the initial Sisonke study would receive an invitation by SMS via the number they used to enrol for the first part of the study, for the booster vaccine.

They would then have to register through the Electronic Vaccination Data System and it would include an informed consent form that needed to be completed online.

Acting director-general of the department, Dr Nicholas Crisp said vaccines remained the best defence against the Covid-19 pandemic. “Vaccines save lives and bring us one step closer to ending the pandemic.”

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