South Africa approves booster jab as omicron fuels new wave

SOUTH AFRICA – South Africa has approved the use of a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine booster shot Wednesday as the country battles a fourth wave of the pandemic driven by the omicron variant.

According to the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), the shot was approved after Pfizer applied to amend the dosing schedule for its Comirnaty vaccine, allowing an optional third dose.

Following evaluation of the data submitted, SAHPRA has approved a third dose of the Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine in individuals aged 18 years and older, to be administered at least six months after the second dose,” the regulator said in a statement.

SAHPRA also approved the use of the booster shot in people aged 12 and older who are severely immunocompromised, to be administered at least 28 days after the second dose.

South Africa has seen a spike in infections in the last two weeks as scientists detected the omicron variant in the country.

According to the latest weekly epidemiology brief published by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), as of December 4, there was a 314.6 percent increase in the number of new cases detected in the country.

In the past week, all provinces reported an increase in weekly incidence risk compared to the previous week,’’ the report said, adding the increase ranged from 14.9 cases per 100,000 persons equivalent to a 623.6 percent increase in the Eastern Cape Province to 228.3 cases per 100,000 persons (271.7 percent increase) in Gauteng Province.

The NICD further noted an increase of 374 hospital admissions in the past 24 hours. There are currently over 4,000 people admitted to hospitals due to the pandemic.

South Africa’s approval of the Pfizer booster jab came hours before the company announced that a booster shot of its vaccine increases antibody protection 25-fold compared with the initial two-dose series and that adding a booster to the two-dose vaccine regimen neutralized the omicron variant in lab studies.

Yesterday, South Africa reported nearly 20,000 new COVID-19 cases, a record since the Omicron variant was detected, and 36 new COVID-related deaths.

The statistics from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) brought the confirmed number of cases in the country to 3.071 million, with more than 90,000 COVID-linked deaths since the pandemic started.

Early evidence suggests Omicron is more transmissible than any previous variant, but that symptoms may be less severe, with lower levels of hospitalization, especially in vaccinated patients.

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