WHO calls for a pause in boosters, while SAHPRA approves second J&J shots in SA

Regardless of WHO's precaution, the South African Medical Association said booster shot programmes and normal vaccination can run concurrently.

While the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) has finally approved a second dose of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for pause in the administering of booster shots for the rest of the year, in order to overcome inequity in global access to vaccines.

ALSO READ: Fewer South Africans fully protected than first thought, due to J&J vaccine

Following an application from J&J manufacturers Janssen to amend the dosing schedule to allow for a second dose two months after the primary vaccine shot, this was finally approved by SAHPRA following reviews of data on safety and efficacy.

“A second dose of 0.5ml of Covid-19 vaccine Janssen may be administered intramuscularly at least two months after the primary vaccination in individuals 18 years of age and older. A booster dose… may be administered as a heterologous booster dose following completion of primary vaccination with an approved mRNA Covid-19 vaccine,” said SAHPRA CEO Dr Boitumelo Semete in a statement on Thursday.

This comes after 6.8 million people had received the J&J jab during the Sisonke study, which has also administered 231 646 booster shots. Those who have yet to receive the boosters have been found to be experiencing diminishing immunity.

Let’s first solve vaccine inequality – WHO

But the Director-General of the WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has called for a moratorium on booster vaccinations for healthy adults until the end of the year.

This is to counter the persisting inequity in global vaccine access, with many countries still far from reaching 40% of their target by the end of the year. Other countries have, however, far surpassed this threshold and have already reached children while implementing booster vaccination programmes.

By this week, 20% of the global Covid vaccine doses administered daily were used as booster or additional doses, said the WHO.

126 countries have already issued recommendations on booster or additional vaccination and more than 120 have started implementing the programme. The majority of these countries were high or upper middle-income countries, while low-income countries were yet to introduce booster shots, said the WHO.

“The most commonly prioritised target populations for booster doses are older adults, health workers and immunocompromised individuals. In immunocompromised individuals, the booster dose considered as an additional primary series vaccination dose by WHO.”

The South African Medical Association (SAMA) says both booster shot programmes and the normal vaccination programmes can run parallel.

“Regardless of what WHO is saying, we are targeting the vulnerable and the people over the age of 60 to get booster shots while simultaneously, we run the normal vaccination programme to get the vaccine in as much arms as possible.

“We have to drive both programmes together to protect the people who can put a strain on healthcare system and protecting doctors. We are waiting for the approval of the Pfizer booster shot. You have to run both programmes parallel,” said SAMA chairperson Dr Angelique Coetzee.


Read more on these topics

covid-19 vaccine Own Your Life

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits