COVID19: EU says booster shot rollout not urgent

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The European Centre of Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) advises EU states to refrain from administrating booster shots to the general population and focus on younger unvaccinated age groups.

In a statement Thursday, the ECDC said: “There is no urgent need for the administration of booster doses of vaccines to fully vaccinated individuals in the general population”.

According to studies, “all vaccines authorised in the EU/EEA are currently highly protective against COVID-19-related hospitalisation, severe disease and death, while about one out of three adults in the EU/EEA over 18 years is still currently not fully vaccinated”.

The ECDC advised: “Priority now should be to vaccinate all those eligible individuals who have not yet completed their recommended vaccination course”.

It argued that booster shots should be reserved for people with weakened immune systems and the elderly.

“Some studies report that an additional vaccine dose can improve the immune response in immunocompromised individuals, such as organ transplant recipients whose initial responses to vaccination were low.

“In such cases, the option of administering an additional dose should be considered now.

“Consideration could also be given to providing an additional dose, as a precautionary measure, to older frail individuals, in particular, those living in closed settings such as residents of long-term care facilities”.

The ECDC based its evaluation on a technical report highlighting evidence on vaccine effectiveness and duration of protection.

It said that vaccination efforts should be complemented with physical distancing, hand and respiratory hygiene, and using face masks where needed, in high-risk settings such as long-term care facilities or hospital wards with patients at risk of severe COVID-19.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is currently assessing data on additional doses and will consider whether updates to the product information are appropriate.

While the EMA assesses relevant data, Member States may consider preparatory plans for administering boosters and additional doses.

ECDC said: “Advice on how vaccinations should be given remains the prerogative of the national immunisation technical advisory groups (NITAGs) guiding the vaccination campaigns in each EU Member State.

“These bodies are best placed to take into account the local conditions, including the spread of the virus (especially any variants of concern), the availability of vaccines and the capacities of national health systems”.

Cyprus is considering launching a booster jab rollout scheme later this month.