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SA plans to delay second dose of Pfizer vaccine by up to 3 months

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In a bid to reach more people who would be at least partially protected from hospitalisation and death.

Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize’s address at the launch Phase 2 of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout campaign in KwaZulu- Natal at the Royal Agricultural Showgrounds in Pietermaritzburg. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)

FACED with limited vaccine supplies, Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize says they might delay the second dose of Pfizer vaccine by up to three months, compared to the approved schedule of two doses three weeks apart.

Mkhize explained that this was done in a bid to reach more people who would be at least partially protected from hospitalization and death.

SA citizens aged 60 and older started receiving the two-shot Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine on Monday, as government launched phase 2 of the national vaccine rollout. So far the country has received 975,780 Pfizer doses, about 1.3 million Pfizer doses are expected by the end of the month.

According to a new UK study, delaying the second dose of Pfizer’s two-shot Covid-19 vaccine could help people produce more antibodies against the virus.

Several countries including Britain, Denmark, Norway, France, the US and Canada have extend the interval between the first and second doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines from six weeks up to maximum of four months – if vaccines are in short supply.

Addressing the media following the inspection of the Covid-19 vaccination site at the Royal Showgrounds in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, Mkhize asked for the public to be patient for second dose.

Mkhize said “We might want to delay the second dose by up to three months… if that happens, don’t feel aggrieved. We want to reach as many people as possible and then build up the immunity.”

“We have said that we are targeting ultimately to use over 3,300 sites by the end of September. We want to have wrapped up our vaccination to all the 250,000 people per day.

With the second phase, we are looking at 16 million people to be vaccinated in this process. We’ll be doing the first and second phase. We want our people to be very patient,” he said.

Currently, SA is only rolling out the Pfizer jab as it waits to hear from the Food and Drug Administration. Mkhize said he hopes that the J&J vaccines will be released this week.

The World Health Organization has also recommended a six week gap “in exceptional circumstances,” such as a vaccine shortage.

The WHO said there is some clinical data that Pfizer’s vaccine provides some protection against Covid-19 for up to six weeks from the first dose, so the guidance gives countries leeway to maximise the number of people benefiting from the first vaccine dose.