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Your Covid-19 questions answered

Has the risk of Covid-19 reinfection increased with the Omicron variant?

A paper published, but not yet peer reviewed, about the risk of reinfection in SA reports a two to three times higher risk of reinfection for people who contracted Covid-19 previously. Stock image
A paper published, but not yet peer reviewed, about the risk of reinfection in SA reports a two to three times higher risk of reinfection for people who contracted Covid-19 previously. Stock image
Image: 123RF/ phonlamaiphoto

The risk of Covid-19 reinfection is likely greater with the Omicron variant than it was with previous variants.

That’s according to health minister Joe Phaahla. 

In a recent media briefing on government’s response to Covid-19, Phaahla said a paper published about the risk of reinfection in SA reports a two to three times higher risk of reinfection for people who contracted Covid-19 previously. 

Phaahla said the paper has not yet been peer reviewed. 

Preliminary evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of reinfection with Omicron. People who have previously had Covid-19 could become reinfected more easily with Omicron as compared to other variants of concern. 

More information on this will become available in the coming days and weeks,” said the minister. 

He said studies about the effectiveness of the vaccines against Omicron are ongoing. He said preliminary studies have so far shown there is “some loss” in protection of the Pfizer vaccine against Omicron, but there is still sufficent protection.

The minister said vaccines are effective against severe illness and death.

Phaahla acknowledged vaccine uptake remained low despite efforts to promote it. He said adults with weak immune systems are eligible for booster shots. 

The SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) approved the Pfizer booster shot for everyone older than 18 to be administered at least six months after the second dose.

Those over 12 who are severely immunocompromised are urged to get the booster at least 28 days after the second dose.

“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 (“mix-and-match” approaches) and invites the submission of supportive data in this regard,” it said.


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