South Africa’s healthcare workers to receive COVID-19 booster shots from Monday

Latest rollout programme expected to provide cover for healthcare workers as fourth wave looms.

The national health department and the South African Medical Research Council have announced plans to provide the country’s healthcare workers with COVID-19 vaccine booster shots. The rollout is intended for everyone who had previously received the one-shot J&J vaccine via the Sisonke trial earlier in the year, and is expected to commence from Monday, 8th of November across the country’s nine provinces. It also comes as the country is preparing for a fourth wave, expected to hit over the coming weeks. “By rolling out the Sisonke study, we bought valuable time for healthcare workers, and were able to protect them four months ahead of the national rollout and ahead of the Delta-driven third wave” said Prof Glenda Gray, one of the principal investigators of the Sisonke trial.

The conversation around booster has dominated headlines the world over, with more and more countries opting for this amid concerns some of the vaccines could have waning immunity over time. South Africa has also come under increasing pressure to provide boosters to its healthcare workers, whose vaccinations earlier in the year formed the bedrock of the country’s fight against the pandemic. The latest rollout will be in the form of a Phase IIIb trial, with the data to be collected from it intended help guide future decisions. To date, South Africa has reported nearly three million cases and just below 90,000 deaths. The latest statistics show there are about 18,000 active cases at present. So far, only a third of the country’s eligible adults have been fully vaccinated.