COVID19: EMA gives green light for booster shots

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The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved COVID-19 booster shots for people with severely weakened immune systems.

The agency has also given the green light to EU member states to proceed with a booster shot rollout for the general population with the Pfizer vaccine if their governments decide it is necessary.

European Union members had been waiting for the EMA to give its opinion this week on whether it recommends the rollout of booster shots for special groups and the general population.

With the EMA’s recommendations, the 27-member bloc is set join the United States, Britain and Israel, which have already received the green light to administer them.

EMA concluded on Monday that COVID-19 booster vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna can be given to people with severely weakened immune systems, at least 28 days after their second dose.

The recommendation comes after studies showed that an extra dose of these vaccines increased the ability to produce antibodies against the virus that causes COVID-19 in organ transplant patients with weakened immune systems.

The EMA stressed there is “no direct evidence that the ability to produce antibodies in these patients protected against COVID-19” but it expects the extra shot will protect at least some.

When it comes to adults with normal immune systems, the agency recommended that they should only get a booster at least 6 months after the second dose, using the Pfizer vaccine.


Moderna an option

The EMA did not reject the use of the Moderna vaccine as a booster shot for the general public, but the regulator needs additional data to make a decision.

Cyprus health authorities pushed forward with their COVID-19 booster shot rollout reaching people aged 80 and above earlier on Monday, as part of a decision to vaccinate people over 65 and vulnerable groups.

The decision follows studies that have shown immunity levels of the elderly can start to wane five months after their second vaccine.

Cyprus is one of a small band of EU countries, including Italy, France, Germany and Ireland, that have already started to administer booster shots.