The Department of Health has reminded the public that booster COVID-19 vaccines are available. People who received the second dose of their Pfizer jab at least six months ago can now get their booster shot.

Johnson and Johnson’s booster vaccines are available to those who received their first J&J shot at least two months ago. Many countries are expanding COVID-19 vaccine booster programmes to shore up protection against the Omicron variant.

The CEO of the South African Medical Research Council, Professor Glenda Gray has encouraged people to take their booster shots.

“It is very good and exciting news and we encourage people who have had the single-dose J&J to go and get vaccinated. We have real-world evidence from SA that this vaccine protects and is very durable. There are other data that we are looking at in the lab that shows great protection against Delta and Omicron – so lovely cross-protection to other variants so it is very important to get your vaccination.”

The Health Department’s Acting Director-General, Dr Nicholas Crisp, has reiterated the call for unvaccinated youth to get the COVID-19 jab.

Dr Crisp was speaking during a virtual media briefing on government’s efforts to fight the pandemic.

“It’s early days in the boosters still as we opened up for booster administration in the Christmas period. But we already started to see a recovery of vaccinations and we hope that as the vaccination sites come up and people get back to their normal lives we will pick up. So this is the challenge that we have – amongst the younger population (between 18-34 and 35-49) both men and women are not as well vaccinated as we need to protect them from severe illness and being admitted into hospital.”

South Africa has reported 5 244 new COVID-19 cases, which brings the total number of laboratory-confirmed infections to 3 552 043. This increase represents a 13% positivity rate.

Due to the ongoing audit exercise by the National Department of Health (NDoH), there may be a backlog of COVID-19 mortality cases reported. On Friday, the NDoH reports 128 deaths and of these, 59 occurred in the past 24 – 48 hours. This brings the total fatalities to 93 117 to date.

Health ministry briefs media on the national vaccination rollout program: 14 January, 2022

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SAPHRA approves J&J COVID-19 boosters

South Africa’s health regulator in December 2021 approved the use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine for a second dose or booster, paving the way for the shot widely used in South Africa to shore up protection against the Omicron variant.

The country already announced in December that it was preparing to offer people booster doses of both the Pfizer and J&J shots, but it did not specify when J&J boosters would be available.

The South African Health Products Authority (SAPHRA) said in a statement that it had approved J&J shots for use as a second dose or booster at least two months after the completion of the person’s primary vaccination, with either J&J’s single-shot course or another approved mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

J&J boosters have so far only been available for health workers, while Pfizer boosters are set to be introduced from January for people who had their second dose six months ago or more.

South Africa has relied heavily on the two companies’ shots in its vaccination campaign, which had given 44% of its adult population at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine earlier this month.

That is more than many African countries but well short of the government’s year-end target.