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The rollout of a third dose or booster shots in SA will begin on Friday as the country races to contain the surge of the Omicron Covid-19 variant. 

This follows the approval of a second dose and booster shots of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine and the booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine by the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) earlier this month. 

“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 health department said in a statement on Thursday. 

Before the health regulator’s approval of booster shots for the public, only health workers who received their one-dose J&J vaccine more than six months ago, were currently eligible for a booster as part of the Sisonke 2 trials.

Sahpra announced on Thursday that people 18 years or older may receive the second dose of the J&J vaccine two months after the initial jab. The booster vaccine may be administered after the initial J&J vaccine or another mRNA Covid-19 vaccine. 

The recommended interval for the J&J vaccine is two months after the initial dose, but the health department has cautioned that those who received the J&J dose should take a booster from six months from the primary dose.

“The dosing interval for the heterologous booster dose is the same as that authorised for a booster dose of the vaccine used for primary vaccination,” Sahpra said.

Booster doses for adults who received the two-dose Pfizer vaccine will be available from December 28. 

This approval is for the vaccination of people six months after the administration of the second dose (or in the case of immunocompromised people who receive an additional primary dose, after their third dose)," the health department said.

Scientists from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) confirmed on Wednesday that the Omicron variant is dominating infections in SA, overtaking the Delta strain, which drove infections in the third wave earlier this year.

The Omicron variant is less severe than Delta, with hospital admissions 80% lower for those infected with Omicron and the risk of severe disease among the hospitalised is 30% lower. The NICD added that unvaccinated people are at a higher risk of death than those who are vaccinated.


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