THE SA Medical Association (Sama) says it is delighted vaccination booster shots are now available, following a Department of Health (DoH) announcement they would be from last Friday.
Last week the DoH announced that from December 24, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) booster vaccinations will be available to those who received their initial J&J vaccines less than two months ago.
The department further announced that Pfizer booster vaccinations will be available from today to those who received their final doses of Pfizer vaccines six months or more than six months ago.
“Booster doses are the same vaccine, in the same dose, administered to people who have had a primary vaccination series, and are administered to allow the body to boost its immunity to the Covid-19 virus,” the department said.
Sama chairperson Dr Angelique Coetzee said the announcement was a significant and welcomed development, and the association encouraged all those who had had their vaccines to get their booster shots as soon as possible.
“Importantly, we want to encourage all those, especially healthcare workers, who have yet to be vaccinated to do so – not only for their own health, but for the health of the nation,” she said.
The association said another important announcement was that booster vaccinations, for now, will be homologous – in other words, those who received J&J will receive J&J shots, and those who received Pfizer will receive Pfizer booster shots.
The SA Health Products Authority (Sahpra) approved heterologous boosting with J&J to supplement the Pfizer vaccine and other approved mRNA vaccines.
Sama said it hopes this will be implemented by the department early next year.
“Sama is further of the opinion that similar approval be given to Pfizer in order to allow heterologous boosters shots of the J&J regime with Pfizer within the first quarter of 2022. Evidence from studies on heterologous vaccination suggests that the combination of viral vector (J&J) vaccines and mRNA (Pfizer) vaccines produces good levels of antibodies against the Covid-19 virus and a higher T-cell response than using the same vaccine (homologous vaccination) whether in a primary or booster regimen,” Sama said.
Coetzee added that along with other measures, such as wearing masks and physical distancing, vaccination remained a key intervention against Covid-19.
“If our country is to recover its overall health, economically, it is imperative that as many citizens as possible are vaccinated and receive their booster vaccines... We cannot stress enough how important this is and we urge everyone to play their part in realising these recoveries,” Coetzee said.