SA Medical association calls for immediate Covid-19 booster shots.
By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
The South African Medical Association (SAMA) says it is necessary that vaccine booster shots for healthcare workers – including doctors – are made available immediately.
The not-for-profit group, representing the interests of more than 12,000 medical doctors in South Africa, said that it was concerned about the immunity and efficacy of single-dose vaccinations, such as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
"It’s critical, in our view, that booster shots be administered to all doctors and healthcare workers as a matter of routine and as early as is needed.
"These are people who are literally on the frontline of a war and who have made enormous sacrifices to assist others. It’s our duty, and the duty of authorities, to ensure these brave men and women receive the best possible protection they can, which is possible through authorizing booster shots," says Dr Angelique Coetzee, chairperson of SAMA.
Dr Coetzee says the high effectiveness of reducing hospitalisations among those who have received second doses and booster shots will ensure the continued health of healthcare workers and reduce transmissions in health facilities. In addition, she said, booster shots will become more necessary as new variants of Covid-19 arise.
"Resources, both human and operational, are already stretched, and the battles against Covid– especially during the first three waves – have exacted a further heavy toll.
"Doctors are emotionally strained, and we are still receiving information on burnout among many of our colleagues. Booster doses will go a long way to send a message to doctors that they are being supported and that their efforts are being recognised," said Dr Coetzee.
Because vaccines are in good supply and that providing booster shots will not dent supply to those who need their first shots, Dr Coetzee said it’s now time to start prioritising the roll-out of boosters to all healthcare workers.
She said that government should give healthcare workers the individual right to choose between the second dose of J&J or Pfizer.
"We still need to focus on getting as many South Africans vaccinated as possible, and we will support those efforts. But vaccine supply is not constrained, and some of those which are available must be given to the people who face this pandemic head-on every day without diverting anything from the public. We believe the scientific evidence strongly favours this approach," notes Dr Coetzee.
Dr Coetzee said the administration of booster doses to healthcare workers must not detract from intensive efforts to ensure all healthcare workers who have not yet received their initial doses get these done as a matter of urgency.