South African health regulator approves J&J COVID-19 boosters

FILE PHOTO: Vials labeled "COVID-19 Coronavirus Vaccine" and syringe are seen in front of displayed J&J logo in this illustration
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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's health regulator on Thursday approved the use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine for a second dose or booster, paving the way for the shot widely used in South Africa to shore up protection against the Omicron variant.

The country already announced in December that it was preparing to offer people booster doses of both the Pfizer and J&J shots, but it did not specify when J&J boosters would be available.

The South African Health Products Authority (SAPHRA) said in a statement on Thursday that it had approved J&J shots for use as a second dose or booster at least two months after the completion of the person's primary vaccination, with either J&J's single-shot course or another approved mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

J&J boosters have so far only been available for health workers, while Pfizer boosters are set to be introduced from January for people who had their second dose six months ago or more.

South Africa has relied heavily on the two companies' shots in its vaccination campaign, which had given 44% of its adult population at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine earlier this month.

That is more than many African countries, but well short of the government's year-end target.

(Reporting by Emma Rumney;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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