Zambia on Monday started giving COVID-19 booster shots as the southern African country has recorded nearly 234,500 infections with the coronavirus and over 3,700 fatalities so far.

Health Minister Sylvia Masebo told reporters in the capital Lusaka that citizens fully vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are eligible for a booster shot two months after the initial jab.

However, people vaccinated with Sinopharm, Moderna, Pfizer, or AstraZeneca shots will be able to receive the booster only six months after the second dose, she explained while delivering a routine COVID-19 update.

Vaccinating children

Masebo also announced that Zambia Monday started vaccinating children aged between 12 and 18 with Pfizer, the WHO-approved vaccine for the age group.

She said three million Pfizer doses were earmarked to vaccinate the children by June 2022.

"This will be the first time we will be inoculating children and we will keep monitoring closely for any side effects which is a normal experience for consuming any drug or form of medication," she added.

Zambia missed the Christmas Day deadline to vaccinate 2.5 million people out of eligible 3.6 million, with Masebo announcing that the target was revised down to 2 million by the end of 2021.

The southern African nation has administered some 1.1 million jabs -- or vaccinated 11% of population -- since a nationwide vaccination drive was relaunched in September.

Masebo said the country has not reported any vaccine shortages or expiries since the vaccination campaign was launched in April this year.

Zambia recorded 16,612 new coronavirus cases and 23 deaths in the past week, raising the positivity rate from 11% to 25%, she stated.

This brought the cumulative number of cases to 234,476 – with 212,712 recoveries and 3,709 deaths – since the virus’s outbreak in the country in March 2020.