Europe gives green light to second booster vaccine strategy

Every  person over the age of 60 within the European Union  is set to receive a second booster vaccine against COVID as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) warned action was needed in the face pf rapidly rising infection rates.

The two organisations have officially recommended that second booster doses of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines be considered for people between 60 and 79 years old and people with medical conditions putting them at high risk of severe disease.

In April 2022, both agencies recommended that people over 80 years of age be considered for a second booster. However, the agencies noted at the time that it might be necessary to consider second boosters in people between 60 and 79 years old and vulnerable persons of any age if there was a resurgence of infections.

The ECDC said 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. 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 6 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.

Stella Kyriakides, the European commissioner for Health and Food Safety said that “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.

“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.”

“We are currently seeing increasing COVID-19 case notification rates and an increasing trend in hospital and ICU admissions and occupancy in several countries mainly driven by the BA 5 sublineage of Omicron,” added Dr Andrea Ammon, the director of ECDC. “This signals the start of a new, widespread COVID-19 wave across the European Union. There are still too many individuals at risk of severe COVID-19 infection whom we need to protect as soon as possible. We need to remind people of the importance of vaccination from the very first shot to the second booster. We have to start today.

“We expect that adults 60 years and older and medically vulnerable populations will need a second booster dose. These are the groups most at risk of severe disease and giving a second booster to those groups now will avert a significant number of hospitalisations and deaths from COVID-19.

“I am aware that it requires a significant effort from public health authorities and society at large to achieve this goal. But now at the beginning of a new wave is the time to make the extra effort. We have several safe and effective vaccines available, and every single COVID-19 infection prevented now is a potential life saved.”