Cape Town - Come Wednesday, the National Health Department said it would be ready to further ramp-up its vaccination programme.
Following a recommendation by the Vaccine Ministerial Advisory Committee (VMAC), supported by Health MECs and the Cabinet, the Department of Health said it would be adding a new age cohort to the vaccination programme, which will include children between the ages 12-17 years.
Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla made the announcement during a media briefing on Friday.
“We believe this will come in handy as schools start exams or are advanced towards concluding the academic year and preparing for the next year. The Pfizer vaccine has been approved by the South African Health Products Authority for this age group and will be used for this purpose,” said Dr Phaahla.
“The VMAC advised that for now, we only give one dose while assessing information which suggests that in a few cases there have been short- lived cases of transient myocarditis after two doses. The timing of the second dose will be informed by further information on this rarely observed side-effect which has no permanent risk.”
Dr Phaahla said Covid-19 infections were continuing on a downward trend over the last seven days, with a 28% reduction in new infections and a 3.5% reduction in hospitalisations with 5 000 Covid-19 related hospitalisations. Dr Phaahla said reported deaths had also gone down by 16%.
By the end of the day on Friday, the country had administered more than 20 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.
“Individuals with at least one jab have reached 13.803 million which is 34.6% of all adults so we are getting closer to 35%, which will be half of the 70% we are targeting,” said Dr Phaahla.
The VMAC has also advised that additional doses be given to individuals with compromised immunity such as those on long-term oral steroids therapy for autoimmune conditions, those with haematological or immune malignancies, those with solid organ or bone marrow transplant, renal dialysis and primary immunological disorders.
This will be strictly under the referral by a medical doctor under their supervision. The department is also considering giving booster doses for healthcare workers, a request made by them.
The South African Medical Research Council has applied to Sahpra to consider a J&J booster to follow the Sisonke study for a second study on the possible benefit of enhanced immunity with a booster of the otherwise one dose vaccine.
Provincial Health Department spokesperson Mark van der Heever said: “The National Department of Health will provide a circular with the parameters for this age group and the immunocompromised.
“The EVDS will be ready for them on October 20, as will our department. We await the details of the implementation process, but our department will be ready to welcome this age band to the vaccination programme.”
Van der Heever said the department had sufficient vaccine supply for both the first and second dose recipients and for the new age cohort.