EU Health Agencies Update COVID Booster Recommendations
As COVID-19 rates increase in several European countries the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have updated public health recommendations on the use of additional booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines this summer and in the upcoming autumn and winter seasons.
The Agencies are advising that a second booster should now be administered to all adults of 60 years and older along with medically vulnerable individuals regardless of age, to prevent severe disease and safeguard health system capacity. The advice comes as hospitalization and intensive care unit admissions are increasing in several countries signalling that a new COVID-19 wave is ramping up across the EU.
Previous advice was for second boosters to be given to adults over the age of 80 but now EU-member states are being advised to consider a rapid deployment of second booster doses with currently available vaccines.
A joint statement from the ECDC and the EMA, said that early administration of a second booster dose of currently available vaccines in healthcare workers and people working in long-term care facilities is likely to offer only limited benefits due to the limited and rapidly waning protection against infection and transmission.
EMA is working towards the possible approval of adapted vaccines to combat new waves of COVID, in September. However, given the current epidemiological situation and forecasts, it is important to use the currently available vaccines now and not wait until adapted vaccines are available.
In anticipation of the next expected wave in the autumn and winter seasons, the agencies are advising that countries should plan the rollout of further additional booster doses to be administered to population groups at risk of severe disease (e.g. those aged above 60 years and the medically vulnerable) in early autumn provided sufficient time has elapsed since the administration of the previous booster dose, possibly combining campaigns for vaccination against COVID-19 and influenza.
If adapted vaccines show increased neutralisation against Omicron variants of concern, indicating a possible higher protection against infection and transmission, the vaccination of healthcare workers and people working at long-term care facilities should also be considered for the autumn/winter rollout to provide both direct and indirect protection.
Currently over half of the European Union/European Economic Area (EU/EEA) countries are already recommending and rolling out second booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines, mainly to older population groups. However, the uptake is still low and uneven across countries.
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