New preliminary results from the Sisonke study on the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccination in South African healthcare workers have showed that a booster shot of the vaccine is 85% effective in preventing COVID-19-related hospitalisations.
The Phase 3b study was conducted by the South African Medical Research Council from the middle of November when the booster shot became available to healthcare workers to the middle of this month.
In a statement, Johnson & Johnson says the study shows that the booster reduced the risk of hospitalisation among healthcare workers after the Omicron variant became dominant in South Africa.
The study, which has not been peer-reviewed was based on a second dose of the J&J vaccine administered to more than 69 000 healthcare workers between 15 November and 20 December.
VIDEO: Lead researcher for the Sisonke J&J vaccine program, Dr Linda-Gail Bekker speaks about booster shots:
Chairperson of the National Immunisation Safety Expert Committee (NISEC), Prof. Hannelie Meyer says, while South Africa has not reached its COVID-19 vaccination target this year, a larger portion of the population has developed immunity against the virus.
When the vaccine was rolled out in March to the country’s healthcare workers, government intended to vaccinate almost 70% of the adult population by the end of 2021.
However, a number of challenges has left the country’s vaccination figures low.
As the year draws to a close, almost 28-million doses have been administered. Around 15.7 million people are fully vaccinated.
Meyer says, vaccine hesitancy was a major stumbling block in 2021.
He says, “ We haven’t reached the target, we are not even close to the target. We have vaccinated somewhere in the 40% of the adult population at least with once vaccine. According to studies, they say between 60 to 80% of the adult population have been exposed to the virus and have a level of immunity.”
VIDEO: This month, Health ministry briefed media on the national vaccination rollout programme: