Before the new Omicron variant, many people didn’t feel the urgency to get a booster shot as they did to get vaccinated in the first place, with some not quite clear about how necessary the third jab is.
According to a survey by Great Dyke News 24, twenty percent of respondents are in favour of the booster shot with the majority undecided given the fact that they have lots of questions to be answered.
Some were asking if the booster will last until winter season considering that cases might increase like what happened last year, while some were asking if one should get a booster shot after getting the virus and if Zimbabwe, like the West which is in winter should be looking at booster shots at this stage of the pandemic.
In response to these questions, Dr Agnes Mahomva, the Covid-19 Chief Coordinator forwarded a statement from the Secretary for Health and Child Care Air Commodore Dr. Jasper Chimedza to Great Dyke News 24 saying there should be at least six months interval between the last post recovery PCR negative tests following an episode of Covid 19 infection and the booster shot.
“The third dose booster vaccination proceeds with the same vaccine type used for the first and second dose for that individual. For the avoidance of doubt, there shall be no mixing of different vaccine types.
“There shall be at least six months interval between the second dose and the booster dose. The booster dose will be recorded on the same vaccination card with the first and second dose.
“In all cases other contradictions to Covid 19 vaccinations still apply to the third dose and those with high antibody titres to SARS Covid 19 should not be offered a booster dose,” reads the statement.
According to the Zvishavane District Health and Environmental Officer Sam Betera, one should wait for six months before getting a third dose after getting infected.
“The third is available for those who are eligible to get it .If you have received the second dose in the past six months like in this case those who were vaccinated in July 2021 going backwards are the ones who are eligible to get this booster shot.
“What is important is that perhaps you got infected by the virus after the second dose, you will need to count when you were identified to be suffering from this virus that’s when you start counting six months before getting the third dose,” he said.
There is concern however among some people that Zimbabwe may be following western countries which are currently administering the booster shot having entered the winter season.
The view is that Zimbabwe may do better to time the rollout of the third jab when the winter season begins as this has seen a spike in infections in the last two years.
A medical expert based in Zvishavane Dr Wilson Mupariwa is however of the opposite view.
“Covid outbreaks are not limited to specific seasons. If you remember last year we had an outbreak in July and August which is a summer outbreak, we had an outbreak in November-December which is a summer outbreak, making two outbreaks in one season.
“We also had an outbreak in December 2020 which was also a summer outbreak. So covid-19 has nothing to do with seasons,” he said.
As to whether the rollout of the booster shot should be now he had this to say.
“Yes this is the right time because if you get a booster shot it increases the immune system so that when the next outbreak comes you will be ready.
“You do not get a booster shot when the outbreak has started,” said Dr Mupariwa.
Meanwhile the World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director Matshidiso Moeti has revealed that so far, just 7.3% of Africans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, compared to 58% in both the U.S. and Europe, where booster shots are now being offered widely.
She set a further target of 70% coverage for all countries by June 2022, adding that this could also be missed across Africa.
“As things stand, predictions are that Africa may not reach the 70% vaccination coverage target until August 2024,” she said.
According to the Canadian American paediatric infectious disease physician, epidemiologist, and vaccinologist Katherine O’Brien, vaccines that people have received are holding up really well to protect them against severe disease, hospitalization and death.
“Studies show that the original doses of all three vaccines currently approved or authorized—two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna shots, or one dose of the J & J-Janssen shot—continue to protect people from getting severe disease and needing to be hospitalized.
“Studies looking at the vaccines’ effectiveness against Omicron are ongoing, but so far reports from South Africa suggest that the cases seem to be mild.
“So right now, we’re in a situation where, as I said, the evidence shows that the vaccines that people have received are holding up really well to protect you against severe disease, against hospitalization and against death, and that’s really the primary intent of the vaccines,” she said.