- Sahpra has approved the use of the J&J vaccine for a second, or booster shot.
- Adults who received the single-dose vaccine will soon be eligible to receive a second dose two months later.
- Those who received the two-dose Pfizer vaccine may also be able to receive a booster J&J shot (mix-and-match dosing).
The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) has approved a second dose of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine.
The booster shot will be administered to people aged 18 years and older who received the initial single dose of the vaccine.
The health regulator has also decided to approve mixing and matching vaccines.
In a statement released on Thursday, it said: "Sahpra reviewed the safety and efficacy data provided and has subsequently approved the Covid-19 Vaccines Janssen (J&J) second dose/booster dose..."
Interval between doses
According to Sahpra, the second J&J dose should be administered at least two months after the first dose of the J&J vaccine.
The Department of Health (DoH) said on Thursday: "From 24th December 2021 the National Vaccination Programme (NVP) will provide J&J booster vaccinations to anyone who received their last dose at least two months prior (24th October 2021 or before and from then on at least two months interval).
"The recommended interval is after two months but preferably before six months from the primary dose."
Those who received the two-dose mRNA vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech may also be eligible to receive a third dose of J&J's vaccine – known as heterologous boosting. However, the health department, which usually consults with the Covid-19 Vaccine Ministerial Advisory Committee (VMAC), has not yet made an announcement on whether and when this option will become available.
As it stands, booster doses are classified as "the same vaccine in the same dose administered to people who have had a primary vaccination series", the department said.
If the department decides to go ahead with a mixing-and-matching schedule, the dosing interval for the heterologous (J&J) booster dose should be six months after the second Pfizer shot, according to Sahpra.
The regulator's decision did not include the approval of a Pfizer booster shot after a single dose of the J&J vaccine.
More than 6.8 million people in SA, including healthcare workers, have already been vaccinated with the J&J vaccine.
Healthcare workers who were part of the Sisonke 1 study and received the J&J vaccine earlier this year, recently became eligible to receive a second shot of the same vaccine.
Sahpra approved a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine on 8 December. Adults who received this vaccine will be allowed to receive their third dose six months after their second dose. This offer will open from 28 December, the department said.
VMAC on standby
In a media briefing this month, Dr Nicholas Crisp, acting director-general of the national DoH said:
A recent World Health Organisation review was also available, which supported the administration of J&J vaccine booster doses, he said.
"By the time we break for the Christmas period, it looks like we will be able to get all the vaccines [boosters] rolling out," Crisp said.