South Africa: Makes it Easy to Access Sisonke Booster Vaccines

Covid-19 vaccine (file photo).
17 November 2021
press release is now available to help healthcare and allied professionals to find their closest vaccine site and get their booster shot. The Johnson & Johnson (J&J) single-dose Covid-19 vaccine was given earlier this year as part of the Sisonke study and those who participated are now eligible for a second shot prior to SA’s fourth wave. The platform is expected to be scaled for South Africa’s public vaccine programme and is made possible with supportt from USAID.

Vaccine booster shots are proven to restore immunity against severe disease and death and offer protection against new Covid-19 variants. This is particularly important for healthcare workers on the frontlines who are most vulnerable to Covid-19 exposure. The Geographic Information System (GIS) web-based app is being piloted by health NGO Right to Care in support of the National Department of Health (NDoH) for the Sisonke study booster rollout, Sisonke2.

Dr Dorman Chimhamhiwa, head of Right to Care’s GIS and Planning unit, explains, “ can be accessed from any device. Only vaccination sites administering the J&J booster jabs are reflected. On you enter your location and a list of sites closest to you pop up. Each site shows its name, address, contact information and operating hours. Once you select your preferred site, click to receive directions. also reflects new and pop-up sites over weekends in real time.”

If you received your first jab as part of the Sisonke study, you will receive an SMS invitation to participate in Sisonke2 - wait for this before going to a vaccination site. Click the link in the SMS to give informed consent. After completion, you will receive a new vaccination voucher number starting with the letters BD (Booster Dose). Further registration on the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) is not required.

“ also directs Sisonke study participants to new vaccination sites that are opening all the time,” says Chimhamhiwa.

GIS mapping technology in healthcare uses data to track the spread of diseases, analyse trends and inform a targeted response. Right to Care’s GIS capability has developed significantly over the past several years. It was first introduced in 2016 to use mapping technology to target HIV testing services and ensure quick interventions including starting HIV-positive people on antiretroviral treatment.

Since the beginning of Covid-19, the organisation’s GIS offering helped strengthen the government's response and vaccination programme. This included identifying hotspots to target interventions, mapping healthcare facilities and was used to ensure the efficient transport of patients and oxygen.

Once vaccines arrived, GIS was used to map where vaccination sites were needed, how to reach communities in remote parts of the country, to ensure there was ongoing vaccine supply, and to target interventions where vaccination take up was lagging. Through USAID, Right to Care also supported the NDOH in upgrading its EVDS.

Sisonke2 is Africa’s first large study of the efficacy of Covid-19 booster vaccines. The South African Medical Research Council’s media release cites that, “The study provides a booster of the Janssen® (J&J) vaccine to Sisonke participants who received their initial dose during the first phase of Sisonke between February and May 2021. The decision to give an additional dose of the vaccine is based on data showing the safety, immunogenicity and efficacy of a two-dose regimen.”

Healthcare and allied professionals who received their first J&J dose outside the Sisonke study cannot take part, nor can those who have already accessed a booster vaccination through other means.

If you were vaccinated before 15 May 2021, but did not receive your invite because you either changed your number or lost the phone, please, call or email the National Coronavirus call centre on 0800 029 999 or and ask them to update your Vaccination Record with your new number.

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