Europe recommends a fourth Covid jab for the over-60s now, and proposes a fifth in the autumn

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the European Medicines Agency argue that this group "continues to have the highest risk of serious illness"

AGENCY

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have recommended starting the administration of the second booster dose of a Covid vaccine to people over 60 years of age and vulnerable people of any age, as well as proposing a fifth jab in the autumn.

In April, the EMA and ECDC recommended that people over the age of 80 receive a second booster dose of the mRNA vaccines. Both agencies also noted at the time that if there was a "significant resurgence" in infections, people aged from 60 to 79 and vulnerable people of any age should also get a fourth dose.

“As a new wave is currently happening in Europe, it is important that public health authorities now consider these groups for a second booster dose. This new recommendation occurs in a context of increasing Covid-19 notification rates and hospital and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and occupancy rates in several countries.

The ECDC and EMA argue that those over 60 and the vulnerable "remain at the highest risk of severe illness." "Mathematical models suggest the clear benefits of a second booster dose to protect people over 60 years of age," the organisations added.

However, they do not support administering the fourth dose to health workers or people who work in care facilities such as nursing homes, since the two bodies consider that it "offers only limited benefits due to little and rapidly decreasing protection against infection and the spread".

Additionally, the ECDC and the EMA say that “at the moment there is no clear epidemiological evidence” to support the administration of a second booster dose to those under 60 years of age, unless they have medical vulnerabilities”.

Omicron-adapted vaccines

The ECDC and the EMA are also committed to starting with the administration of the fourth dose now, before the new vaccines adapted to the Omicron variants are expected to arrive from September.

"Given the current epidemiological situation and forecasts, it is important to use currently available vaccines now and not wait for Omicron-adapted vaccines to become available," they argue.

They say that this fourth dose should be administered "at least four months after the previous one, focusing on people who received a previous booster more than six months ago." "This would be especially relevant and have greater impact in countries where the wave of BA.4/5 is starting or has not yet peaked," they two European organisations add.

In addition, they are committed to carrying out another vaccination campaign, which would mean a fifth dose, “in early autumn”, but “provided that sufficient time has elapsed since the administration of the previous booster dose”.

Combined jabs

"In anticipation of the next wave in the autumn and winter seasons, countries should plan for the deployment of new booster doses to be administered to population groups at risk of severe disease (for example, those over 60 years of age and the medically vulnerable people) in early autumn, provided that sufficient time has elapsed since the administration of the previous booster dose, possibly combining vaccination campaigns against Covid-19 and influenza,” they say.

The ECDC and the EMA also consider that health workers and people who work in residences should also be vaccinated "if the Omicron-adapted vaccines show greater neutralisation against the new sub variants, giving increased protection against infection and transmission.”