You've had both your Covid-19 vaccinations, now what about your booster?
By now, so much time has passed, you've forgotten when you had your last vaccination. And with the lifting of lockdown restrictions and life getting back more or less to normal, the need to have a vaccine doesn't seem so pressing. Is it even still necessary?
The answer is yes.
Even as we head into the third year of the pandemic and with declining Covid-19 infection rates, vaccinations and boosters are still vital.
“Vaccines have been shown in controlled trials and in the evaluation of national vaccination programmes to reduce severe disease and mortality by up to 95-97%. This lifesaving effect has continued, even as variants have emerged,” the National Institute for Communicable Diseases of South Africa (NICD) says on its website.
South Africa already started with its booster rollout in December last year, which means it's readily and freely available.
In June this year, the health department also announced that citizens over the age of 50 can now get an additional or second booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine, and it's especially recommended for those living with co-morbidities.
“However, in order to qualify for the additional dose, you should've received your last one, Pfizer or J&J, at least four months after the third Pfizer dose,” health minister Joe Phaahla says.
SO, WHEN DO YOU KNOW YOU'RE DUE FOR A BOOSTER?
Dr Lesley Bamford from the health department says the schedule for boosters is quite complicated and depends on which the vaccine an individual has received, as well as their age.
The current guidelines are:
• Those between 12 and 17 years aren't eligible to receive booster doses. Only people 18 years and older are allowed boosters.
• After one dose of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine, you can receive one booster after 60 days (two months), and another one after three months.
• After two doses of Pfizer vaccine, you can receive a booster 90 days (three months) after you received your second dose. Previously this was 180 days.
• People 50 years and older can now also receive a fourth dose four months after their third dose. This dose is always a Pfizer.
CAN YOU MIX AND MATCH?
Yes, you can.
According to the NICD, you're now able to get both the J&J and Pfizer vaccines. “You just have to be fully vaccinated with the one, then ask for the other as a booster, after either 60 or 90 days, depending on which you got first,” the NICD advises.
WILL I BE NOTIFIED?
Bamford says people should receive an SMS for when their booster jab is due, provided their cellphone number hasn't changed.
In order to be notified when you need your jab, you need to have registered on the South African Covid-19 vaccination programme website.
There are eight steps to register. You'll be asked if you're 12 years or older, followed by choosing the "registration for vaccination" tab. That'll take you to the options to use you ID or passport number.
You'll then need to provide your name, surname, date of birth and gender. The last step will be to provide your contact number and email address, and you're set. You'll then receive your messages for when to go for your jabs and boosters.
If you're worried you've missed your reminder messages, you can phone the Covid call centre on 0800 029 999 to check when you're due to have your next shot. You can also check at a vaccination site, where they'll ask for your details and see if you require a booster of not.
Covid and booster vaccinations for both vaccines are available at numerous sites countrywide, so you do not need to book and can just go to your closest site.
SOURCES: BUSINESSTECH.CO.ZA, NICD.AC.ZA, REUTERS.COM, NEWS24.COM, GOV.ZA