vaccine sisonke

Image: via Twitter @wuky

Sisonke 2: Health workers can now receive a J&J booster vaccine

Sisonke 2, or the health worker booster study, is being launched on Tuesday, 9 November. Health workers who received a J&J jab earlier this year are eligible for another doses ahead of a potential fourth wave.

vaccine sisonke

Image: via Twitter @wuky

Booster shots of the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine will be available to health workers who received a dose during the initial Sisonke study, which took place between February and May this year, from Tuesday, 9 November. The government wants to bolster the immunity of health workers ahead of a potential fourth wave.


The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and Department of Health announced the booster shots – also known as Sisonke 2 or the Sisonke Boost Study for health workers – at the end of October.

Between 17 February and 17 May 2021, 496 424 health workers were vaccinated against COVID-19 with the Ad26COV2.S vaccine (commonly referred to as J&J or Johnson and Johnson) as part of the Sisonke Phase 3B Study to evaluate the effectiveness of vaccines in the South African context.


The SAMRC and health department said booster vaccinations are becoming available in many parts of the world and some countries have decided to offer booster doses to certain high-risk populations like the elderly, health and frontline workers.

“In South Africa, where only 30% of eligible adults have been fully vaccinated, increasing coverage of first doses to levels that would reduce hospital admissions and deaths during a fourth wave remains a top priority,” read a joint statement.

However, based on new information about booster vaccinations and waning immunity, the SAMRC, health department, SAHPRA and J&J have decided to provide early access to J&J vaccine booster doss to all health workers who received a first dose of the vaccine as part of the Sisonke study.

“An Ad26.COV2.S dose administered two months after the primary Ad26.COV2.S dose substantially increases protection, especially against symptomatic and severe/critical disease COVID-19, including when caused by SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern,” read the statement.


Health workers who participated in Sisonke 1 will receive an invitation by SMS on the number they used to enrol for the first part of the study.

The vaccine will be available from selected sites from Tuesday. The sites have to complete an accreditation process that involves ethics approval and training before they can dispense J&J booster doses as part of Sisonke 2.

“Vaccines remain our most powerful weapon in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and our priority remains the most vulnerable groups, especially senior citizens or adults who live with compromised immunity in majority, ahead of a fourth wave,” said Dr Nicholas Crisp, the Acting Director General of Health.

“It is our collective responsibility as individuals, families and communities to protect ourselves and loved ones, including those who we spend most of our time with. Vaccines save lives and bring us one step closer to ending the pandemic.”

Health workers who received unauthorised booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine are “strongly encouraged” not to accept an additional J&J booster because there is insufficient safety data for that combination, said Professor Linda-Gail Bekker, Co-National Investigator.