Covid booster shot to be offered to health workers in South Africa

Moderna Inc’s coronavirus vaccine will be offered as a booster to some South African health workers, who received one or two shots of the Johnson & Johnson inoculation as part of a vaccine trial involving nearly a half a million people.

The Moderna vaccine will be offered to 10,000 health workers in a trial known as Sherpa which is expected to begin in the second half of April, Glenda Gray, J&J’s co-head of vaccine trials in South Africa South and President of the South African Medical Research Council.

The goal of the study, which will target participants from the previous Sisonke trial, is to compare the effectiveness of Moderna’s shot versus Pfizer Inc’s shot as a boost, Gray said in an interview Monday. The Pfizer inoculation is offered as a booster by the South African government.

South Africa, which along with Botswana was the first country to announce the discovery of the omicron variant in November, has seen coronavirus cases plunge but its test positivity rate is stubbornly stuck above 5%, indicating that the virus is still circulating. Another wave of infections is expected around May, according to Gray.

On Sunday, the country recorded 989 new infections with a test positivity rate of 5.9%.

Sherpa, which is run by Moderna and SAMRC, is the second vaccine trial Moderna will undertake in South Africa. The Ubuntu trial spans eight African countries and is designed to determine the effectiveness of the vaccine in people infected with the HIV virus.

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Steven L. Nielsen