Vaccine booster shots

Vials of the Pfizer and AstraZenecca COVID-19 vaccine stand side by side. Photo: Pixabay

Vaccine booster shots: When we’ll get them & everything you need to know

Vaccine booster shots will be rolled out to South Africans in the coming weeks. Here’s what you need to know.

Vaccine booster shots

Vials of the Pfizer and AstraZenecca COVID-19 vaccine stand side by side. Photo: Pixabay

All 9 of the country’s provinces are in the 4th wave of COVID-19. We’ve just about reached the end of the year and still only 38% of South African adults are fully vaccinated. That’s massively short of the government’s original target to be over the 70% mark by this point. COVID cases are surging thanks to the Omicron variant. And millions of vaccines are waiting and sitting in stockpiles That means it’s time for vaccine booster shots to be rolled out in their numbers.

Vaccine booster shots: Why do we need them?

This week, Discovery released world-first new data on the efficacy of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine against the Omicron variant. According to their real-world data from their own clients, being fully vaccinated (two-dose) with the Pfizer vaccine only offers you 30% protection from getting Omicron. That’s down from around 70% for the other COVID variants. The good news? The two-dose Pfizer jab still offers 70% protection against severe illness or hospitalisation from Omicron.

That figure is also down from above the 80% mark compared to other COVID variants. On top of that, we know immunity does begin to wane after around 6 to 8 months.

Government’s booster plans

Deputy Director-General in the Department of Health, Dr Nicholas Crisp, says that the first South African will qualify for their booster jab on the 28th of December. That’s because the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority has approved boosters for only 6 months AFTER you have had your second jab (Pfizer).

ALSO READ – ‘It’s a first’: Gauteng’s hospital data on Omicron now too good to ignore…

Crisp says government will either rollout boosters on the 28th, or a few days after.

What if you received the J&J vaccine?

SAHPRA is yet to officially make a determination on J&J boosters. But it is expected to do so in the next few days. Johnson & Johnson only applied for SAHPRA approval last week. Once that approval is granted, those who received J&J will be boosted with a 2nd shot of the vaccine.

Healthcare workers have already been receiving J&J boosters as part of the Sissonke protocol.

Mix and match your vaccines?

This is the particularly interesting part. Many who have received a J&J or Pfizer shot are looking for the option to have a different vaccine from what they initially had. With the Pfizer and J&J vaccines being different types of vaccines, some studies have suggested that having one of each could offer better protection.

SAHPRA says it has received data submissions for mixing and matching. The ministerial advisory committee is also studying that data. If SAHPRA gives the go ahead, it would be possible to boost your J&J with a Pfizer shot. This is something that is already being rolled out in the US.