Friday, May 13 2022

The Ministry of Health wishes to announce changes to the vaccination program as part of ongoing efforts guided by scientific evidence to increase uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine in South Africa.

Some of these changes include reducing the time interval between the first and second doses of Pfizer from 42 days to 21 days starting Wednesday, February 23, 2022. First, all people who are fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, this meaning they have received both doses, will now be eligible for a booster dose 90 days (or three months) after the second dose instead of the current interval of 180 days (or six months).

Second, all individuals over the age of 18 who have received a dose of the J&J COVID-19 vaccine will be able, starting today (Monday, February 21, 2022), 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).

Third, people over the age of 18 who have received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be able, starting Wednesday, February 23, 2022, to receive a booster dose of the same vaccine or a booster dose of the COVID-19 J&J vaccine for at least 90 days. (three months) after the second dose. These are called heterologous booster doses, i.e. booster doses of a vaccine different from the one given as the primary dose.

The decision on which vaccine to give as a booster should be guided by the availability of the vaccine. Thus, if both vaccines are available at the vaccination site, the homologous booster should be preferred, unless the vaccinee requests a heterologous or different booster dose, or has a history of an adverse event following vaccination .

However, people are reminded that all adverse events following vaccination should be reported to the nearest vaccination site or to the public COVID-19 hotline on 0800 029 999.

Meanwhile, the department is updating the Electronic Vaccine Data System (EVDS) to allow people who have received their primary COVID vaccinations outside of South Africa, but who are eligible to receive a dose reminder, to be registered on the system to receive the booster dose.

Further information regarding when the functionality for recording these doses on the EVDS will be communicated once it is finalized and available on the EVDS.

COVID-19 vaccinations are becoming available as part of routine health services. This means that COVID-19 vaccines can be co-administered with other vaccines. Co-administration of vaccines is essential to increase vaccination coverage of all vaccines, including but not limited to influenza and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines.

While the COVID-19 vaccination schedule originally recommended a 14-day gap between an individual receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and any other vaccinations, this is no longer required.

COVID-19 vaccines remain the most effective weapon against the pandemic and provide protection against COVID-19 infection.

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