Second booster doses of vaccines against Covid-19 should be considered for people aged 60 to 79 years old and those with medical conditions putting them at high risk of severe disease, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on July 11.
“As a new wave is currently underway in Europe, with increasing rates of hospital and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, it is critical that public health authorities now consider people between 60 and 79 as well as vulnerable persons of any age for a second booster,” the agencies said.
These could be administered at least four months after the previous one, with a focus on people who have received a previous booster more than six months ago.
Currently authorised vaccines continue to be highly effective in reducing Covid-19 hospitalisations, severe disease and deaths in the context of emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants, the agencies said.
Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “Our Covid-19 vaccines work, and offer good levels of protection against severe illness and hospitalisation.
“With cases and hospitalisations rising again as we enter the summer period, I urge everybody to get vaccinated and boosted as quickly as possible. There is no time to lose,” Kyriakides said.
‘I call on member states to roll-out second boosters for everyone over the age of 60 as well as all vulnerable persons immediately and urge everyone eligible to come forth and get vaccinated. This is how we protect ourselves, our loved ones and our vulnerable populations,” she said.
The EMA and ECDC said that at the moment, there is no clear evidence to support giving a second booster dose to people below 60 years of age who are not at higher risk severe disease.
Neither is there clear evidence to support giving early second boosters to healthcare workers or those working in long-term care homes unless they are at high risk, they said.
However, residents at long-term care homes are likely to be at risk of severe disease and should be considered for booster doses in line with national recommendations.
ECDC and EMA have called on public health authorities across the EU to plan for additional boosters during the autumn and winter seasons for people with highest risk of severe disease, possibly combining Covid-19 vaccinations with those for influenza.
National Immunisation Technical Advisory Groups (NITAGs) will ultimately make national decisions on who should get second boosters, taking into account the situation in their countries, the statement said.
Bulgaria began offering second boosters to people aged 18 and over as of June 27.
The second booster dose of mRNA vaccine is highly recommended for seven categories of individuals 18 years of age and older, Bulgaria’s Health ministry said.
The categories are people who are immunocompromised; transplant patients receiving immunosuppressive therapy; chronic dialysis patients; patients with oncohaematological diseases; residents and staff of social institutions providing long-term care for the elderly; Medical professionals involved in the treatment of patients with Covid-19; and elderly people, meaning those 65 and older.
Bulgaria’s unified information portal daily report on July 11 said that so far, 8454 had received a second booster, including 5751 in the past week.
Of those who received a second booster in Bulgaria since the dose was first offered a fortnight ago, most, 3157, are in the 70 to 79 age group, followed by 2272 in the 60 to 69 age group and 1080 in the 80 and over age group.
The latest ECDC/EMA advice comes amid work to adapt vaccines for the Omicron variants of concern.
“We are working towards possible approvals of adapted vaccines in September,” EMA executive director Emer Cooke said, noting that “our human medicines committee is currently reviewing data for two adapted vaccines”.
“In the meantime, it is important to consider using currently authorised vaccines as second boosters in people who are most vulnerable. Authorised vaccines in the EU continue to be effective at preventing hospitalisations, severe disease and deaths from Covid-19, even as new variants and subvariants continue to emerge,” Cooke said.
She said that authorities in the EU are working closely with the World Health Organization and international partners on policies concerning adapted vaccines.
ECDC and EMA said that they would continue to closely evaluate emerging vaccine effectiveness and epidemiological data and will update their recommendations accordingly.
(Photo: Bulgaria’s Military Medical Academy)
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