SOUTH AFRICA- South Africa has updated its COVID-19 vaccination programme in an effort to promote vaccine uptake in the country.

The Department of Health has made adjustments to the vaccine programme including halving the waiting period between the first and second period of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine with effect from 23rd February 2022.

Consequently, the time interval between first and second doses of COVID-19 Pfizer has been reduced from 42 days to 21 days.

The Health Department recommends that individuals who have received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be eligible for the booster dose 90 days after the second dose instead of the current 180 days interval.

Individuals older than 18 years of age who have received one dose of the COVID-19 J&J vaccine are now eligible to receive a booster dose of the same vaccine or a booster dose of Pfizer vaccine after an interval of 60 days,” the Department said in a statement.

Whereas, individuals over the age of 18 years who have received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine are eligible to receive a booster dose of the same vaccine or a booster dose of the COVID-19 J&J vaccine at least 90 days after the second dose.

The COVID-19 vaccines mix and match is called heterologous booster doses meaning booster doses of a different vaccine to that which was administered as the primary dose,” reported the Department.

The department maintained that the decision regarding which vaccine to administer as a booster should be guided by vaccine availability.

Homologous boosting should be preferred if both vaccines are available at the vaccination site unless the vaccinee requests to receive a heterologous booster dose or has a history of experiencing an adverse event following immunization,” the statement further said.

The Department of Health urges people to report all adverse events following immunization to their nearest vaccination site or COVID-19 Public Hotline 0800 029 999.

The department is also updating the Electronic Vaccine Data System (EVDS) to enable individuals who received their primary COVID-19 vaccinations outside South Africa and are eligible to receive a booster dose to be registered on the system to receive the booster dose.

Whilst the COVID-19 vaccination programme initially recommended a 14-day interval between an individual receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and any other vaccination, this is no longer required.

Meanwhile, South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) has granted conditional registration to the Pfizer, J&J and Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccines as it reviews a range of antiviral therapies.

SAHPRA CEO Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela said that the authority was sitting with quite a healthy pipeline of COVID-19 therapies either in review or already approved.

The available therapies currently under investigation include antivirals such as remdesivir and molnupiravir as well as a class of monoclonal antibodies that have been submitted,” said Semete-Makokotlela.

The regulator announced that molnupiravir was indicated for use in patients aged 18 years and older with importation conditions of a limited quantity of molnupiravir capsules for six months at first.

However, South Africa’s government is not planning to buy Merck’s COVID-19 treatment pill molnupiravir for cost reasons despite the drug gaining approval from the country’s health regulator.

The authorization of molnupiravir for compassionate use offers further therapy in the fight against COVID-19 as the pill has demonstrated effectiveness in trials of adults with COVID-19 who are at high risk of serious illness.

Liked this article? Sign up to receive our regular email newsletters, focused on Africa and World’s healthcare industry, directly into your inbox. SUBSCRIBE HERE