Healthcare workers to get J&J booster shots as second Sisonke trial starts

Health workers will start getting their COVID-19 vaccine booster shots in the second Sisonke trial that gets under way on Monday.

Nurse Zoliswa Gidi-Dyosi was the first South African and health care worker to receive the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on 17 February 2021 at Khayelitsha Hospital. Picture: Twitter/@DrZweliMkhize

JOHANNESBURG - Health workers will start getting their COVID-19 vaccine booster shots in the second Sisonke trial that gets under way on Monday.

The rest of the general public who got the Johnson & Johnson treatment will eventually also get boosters.

Unlike the first trial, healthcare workers will be able to get their booster shots at allocated private vaccine sites and won't have to wait in long queues at selected public health venues.

Almost half a million people were vaccinated as part of the study, which opened the country's inoculation programme.

The Health Department said that there were some healthcare workers who would prefer to hold on and wait for the clearance of a Pfizer booster shot but it was not clear when that would be.

The department's acting Director-General Nicholas Crisp said that some private vaccine sites would be stocked up with the Johnson & Johnson booster shots this week that would be strictly for the trial participants.

"As long as we are able to get to all of this group who were the early vaccinators way back in February, March, and April that's what we're really after," he said.

Crisp added that healthcare workers who received their Johnson & Johnson jab after the Sisonke trial would have to wait a bit longer before they could get a booster shot.

"There are a lot of other healthcare workers who were vaccinated out of the Sisonke study. They are not yet at eight months and we will get to them once we've got this programme running," Crisp said.

The Johnson & Johnson booster shot is still part of the study as experts want to use the outcome of the study to determine how long the first shot lasts and at what point a booster shot is needed for the general public.

Those eligible to participate in the study will receive information via SMS before they can register on the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) portal.