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Your Covid-19 questions answered

Do children and teens need booster shots?

There is no evidence that healthy children and adolescents need booster doses against Covid-19. File image
There is no evidence that healthy children and adolescents need booster doses against Covid-19. File image
Image: REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

There is no evidence that healthy children and adolescents need booster doses against Covid-19.

So says World Health Organisation’s (WHO) top scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan, who was briefing media this week. 

Swaminathan said though there are many unknowns at play, at the moment there is no scientific evidence healthy children and adolescents need booster shots. Instead the goal should be to protect specific vulnerable populations.

“There’s no evidence right now that healthy children or healthy adolescents need boosters. No evidence at all,” she said. 

“The aim is to protect the most vulnerable, to protect those at highest risk of severe disease and dying.

“Those are our elderly populations, the immunocompromised, people with underlying conditions, but also healthcare workers because if a lot of healthcare workers get infected as we see now, they can be out sick and we don’t want them getting severely ill. So we reserve boosters for that population.”

Swaminathan said the WHO’s top experts will meet later this week to consider the specific question of how countries should consider giving boosters to their populations.

Last year, the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) approved the Pfizer booster shot for everyone older than 18. 

Sahpra received an application from Pfizer to amend the dosing schedule for its vaccine and subsequently agreed to allow a third dose for individuals aged 18 years and older. 

“The data provided only dealt with the situation of homologous boosting, where the third dose is of the same vaccine as the initial course (in this case, two doses).

“Sahpra is aware of the keen interest in the efficacy and safety of heterologous boosting regimens (so-called ‘mix-and-match’ approaches) and invites the submission of supportive data in this regard,” it said. 

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) only healthcare workers who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are eligible for a booster, if they chose to enrol in the Sisonke trial.

People aged 12 to 17 should receive a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine to complete the vaccination series.

“People who have received a complete vaccine series (two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and a single dose of the J&J vaccine) will be eligible for a booster vaccine six months after receiving their last vaccine dose,” said the institute. 

A third dose of the vaccine for individuals aged 12 years and older who are severely immunocompromised, must be administered at least 28 days after the second dose.

Boosters will officially be phased in, starting with 60-year-old citizens and older. Those who wish to get a booster shot will need to download the form which needs to be filled in by their doctors. 


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