Only J&J shots will be available to healthcare workers under the Sisonke 2 study, however, the Pfizer vaccine may become available at a later stage
Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine booster shots will from Tuesday be administered to healthcare workers, who received their initial dose during the first phase of Sisonke study between February and May 2021.
The Department of Health and the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) said that close to 500 000 Sisonke participants who had received a J&J vaccine as part of the first Sisonke study will be invited to participate.
“This study enables early access to a booster dose of the J&J vaccine ahead of a possible fourth wave. The decision to give an additional dose of the vaccine is based on data showing the safety, immunogenicity and efficacy of a two-dose regimen,” they said in a press statement.
The health department said at this stage, only J&J vaccine booster shots will be available to healthcare workers under the Sisonke 2 study, however, the Pfizer vaccine may become available at a later stage.
Acting Director General of Health, Dr Nicholas Crisp, urged all eligible health workers to receive their booster shots.
“We have noted a number of people who have not returned for the second Pfizer jab, and so we urge all eligible frontline health care workers to take this opportunity by going for a booster shot in numbers to enhance their level of protection ahead of the next wave, because this vaccine has shown without doubt that it is the most dependable weapon against the pandemic,” he said.
Communications have been sent out to all Sisonke participants containing a link to an online consent form to receive the booster dose.
Sisonke 2 Booster vaccinations will be available until mid-December 2021.
Chairperson of the South African Medical Association (SAMA), Dr Angelique Coetzee, said last month that booster shots will become more necessary as new variants of Covid-19 arise.
“It’s critical, in our view, that booster shots be administered to all doctors and healthcare workers as a matter of routine, and as early as is needed. These are people who are literally on the frontline of a war, and who have made enormous sacrifices to assist others,” she said.
While focus needs to be placed on getting as many South Africans vaccinated as possible, Coetzee said the country’s vaccine supply is not constrained, and the department of health should start prioritising the roll-out of boosters to all healthcare workers.
Since the vaccine rollout started in the country, over 23.2 million doses have been administered to 15.5 million people. Just under 40% of adults had been fully vaccinated.