COVID19: Health experts want booster jab rollout now

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Health experts are urging the government to rollout booster jabs against COVID-19 for the elderly and vulnerable groups as evidence suggests their immunity is wearing off.

The scientific team advising the government on handling the coronavirus outbreak propose Cyprus should not waste time waiting for the go-ahead from the European Medicine Agency (EMA) to prevent a new wave of infections amongst the elderly.

In comments to Phileleftheros daily, Dr Christos Petrou, advisor on the vaccination rollout, said: “It is imperative the state takes its own decisions, independently of the EMA, in case the European pharmaceutical authority delays in making its recommendations”.

Petrou said the reasons why the booster dose is being considered is the weakening of protection over time (immuno-ageing) against serious illness and death, reduced protection against mutations and insufficient protection for certain vulnerable groups.

“A study in Israel where only the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine was used shows that people who received the second dose of the vaccine five months or more run a higher risk of testing positive for COVID-19 than people who were fully vaccinated less than five months ago.”

Petrou explained that older adults who were vaccinated late last year and earlier this year are three times more likely to contract the virus than people who were vaccinated more recently.

Meanwhile, the spokesperson for the State Health Services Organisation (OKYPY), Charalampos Charilaou, said one out of three patients hospitalised with COVID-19 are over the age of 70, with numbers dangerously increasing.

“At the beginning of July, just 15 patients were over the age of 70. Today, 70 out some 200 patients are over the age of 70,” Charilaou told Phileleftheros.

“It is imperative that we re-instate a wall of protection for these people,” he said, adding the elderly completed their vaccination in January.

Meanwhile, researchers in the UK have found that protection against COVID-19 offered by two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines begins to fade within six months underscoring the need for booster shots.

According to the findings, after five to six months, the effectiveness of the Pfizer jab at preventing COVID-19 infection in the month after the second dose fell from 88% to 74%.

For the AstraZeneca vaccine, effectiveness fell from 77% to 67% after four to five months.

Scientists carrying out the study said that protection could fall below 50% for older people and healthcare workers under the worst-case scenario by the winter.

The study was based on data from more than 1.2 million test results.