- The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine consists of two doses that must be administered six weeks apart.
- Pfizer recommends the jab be given 21 days apart, but evidence suggests a longer gap may provide better protection.
- Some people have reportedly received SMSes to get their second dose before this period has expired, but this is likely a repeat first-dose appointment SMS.
The first and second doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine will continue to be administered 42 days (six weeks) apart, health department spokesperson Foster Mohale told Health24.
But it appears that some people who received their first jab via walk-in at a vaccination site, are receiving SMSes for appointments - well before six weeks have passed - which they assume are for their next dose.
The department of health, however, told Health24 that this is likely a repeat SMS for a first-dose appointment, as their first-dose vaccination, via walk-in, is not being picked up on the EVDS (Electronic Vaccination Data System.
For people assuming it is their second dose appointment, Mohale said: “We would like to urge all those who are vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine to ignore SMSes requesting them to return for the second dose earlier than 42 days/six weeks."
He added that the vaccine, currently being administered in South Africa to people 60 years and older, has high safety and efficacy levels against the Delta variant. “Thus there is no immediate need to shorten the interval between doses for now,” he said.
Mohale also requested that people inform the department if they receive these SMSes (where they have already had their first dose via walk-in): “We would appreciate it if those who receive such messages inform the Department through the Covid-19 Call Centre (0800 029 999),” he said.
Extending the dosing interval
Dr Sandile Buthelezi, Director General of South Africa’s National Department of Health recently said in a statement that, based on emerging evidence, the country’s EVDS will schedule appointments to administer the two doses of the Pfizer vaccine 42 days (six weeks) apart, Health24 reported.
“There is currently emerging evidence to support a 42-day interval between the first and second doses. The Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 Vaccines (VMAC) has reviewed the available evidence in this regard and advised that, in the event of limited vaccine supply, the dosing interval should be extended to 42 days,” she said.
Delta highly contagious
South Africa is currently battling the third wave of Covid-19 infections. An announcement over the last few days by scientists and President Cyril Ramaphosa pointed to the Delta variant playing a big role in driving new infections in the country.
The new variant is highly contagious and World Health Organization official, Dr Mike Ryan, recently labelled it the “fastest and fittest” variant to date, CNBC reported. The threat of Delta also looms in other parts of the world, including the UK, where it has become the dominant virus variant. It has already spread to more than 85 countries.
Data from Public Health England (PHE) suggest that the two doses of the Pfizer vaccine offer sufficient protection against this variant.
"It is absolutely vital to get both doses as soon as they are offered to you, to gain maximum protection against all existing and emerging variants," head of immunisation at PHE, Dr Mary Ramsay, said in a press release about the findings.
Vaccination site for second dose
Health24 also sought clarity on where people would receive their second jab (when available).
Mohale said: “We urge all people who are due for their second Pfizer dose to visit their nearest vaccination site to receive the second dose, with or without an appointment. We are aware that some of the sites where they received their first dose might have closed or moved to other areas.”
“Lastly,” he said, “we would like to appeal to all people who are scheduled to vaccinate as per SMS to go to the vaccination sites in order to create space for others waiting in the queue to get appointments. We have noted that some people who are scheduled to vaccinate don't honour their appointments.”