All South African adults must be vaccinated with additional booster shots because vaccines have proved to be efficient beyond reasonable doubt in preventing Covid-19 infections, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said on Wednesday.The minister said vaccines have proven to make a difference even at the height of the fourth wave that hit the country last year.
“We are advocating for additional vaccination of booster shots and the reason we’re doing so is because vaccines have been proven to be efficient beyond reasonable doubt,” Phaahla said.
He added: “Since there have been vaccinations, any changes in the nature of the virus in terms of variants, even when there has been high transmissibility, has resulted in milder illness – and sometimes even asymptomatic infections.”
According to health ministry official, Lesley Bamford, following the detection of the more transmissible XBB.1.5 sub-variant of the Omicron variant in the country last week, it’s important to make the booster shots available to all adults.
Bamford explained that, currently adults over the age of 50 years were eligible to receive four doses – including booster doses – of the Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccine, while those between 18 and 49 years could receive three doses.
“It is our intention to offer an additional dose. So that will be a fifth dose for people 50 years and older — and a fourth dose for those who are 18 to 49 years of age. Those additional doses will also be available for people who are immuno-compromised,” Bamford said.
She added: “Our expectation is that those additional booster doses will be available during January, probably towards the end of the month. But we are working hard to provide those additional doses.”
Bamford said “any adult who has not had a dose in the past six months, whether they are immuno-compromised or not, will be eligible to receive an additional booster dose.”
She explained that South Africa had enough vaccine doses available.
“We do have large stocks of our two vaccines. We have approximately 10 million doses of the J&J vaccine and eight million doses of the Pfizer vaccine,” the doctor said.
Some 38,271,617 jabs have been administered so far, with 22,498,138 people receiving at least one dose in South Africa by Monday this week, according to the health ministry.