The Department of Health has announced changes to the vaccination programme as part of ongoing efforts to increase uptake of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) vaccine in South Africa.
The changes, which have been guided by scientific evidence, include reducing the time interval between the first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine from 42 days to 21 days.
“All individuals who are fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, meaning they have received both doses, will now be eligible for the booster dose 90 days (or three months) after the second dose,” the department said.
Previously the booster dose was administered 180 days (or six months) after the second dose.
Those above the age of 18, who receive one dose of the Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccine, are now eligible to receive a booster dose of the same vaccine or a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine after an interval of two months (60 days).
Individuals above the age of 18, who receive two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, are now eligible to receive a booster dose of the same vaccine or a booster dose of the J&J vaccine at least 90 days (three months) after the second dose.
“This is called heterologous booster doses, meaning booster doses of a different vaccine to that which was administered as the primary dose,” explained the department.
The decision regarding which vaccine to administer as a booster should be guided by vaccine availability, added the department.
“If both vaccines are available at vaccination site, homologous boosting should be preferred, unless the vaccine requests to receive a heterologous or different booster dose, or has a history of experiencing an adverse event following immunisation.”
The department encouraged South Africans to get vaccinated because vaccines remain the most effective weapon against the pandemic and provide protection against COVID-19 infection.