Too early for second Covid-19 booster for general population, say European agencies

Another 7,005 Covid cases reported in State as Niac approves extra booster for over-65s

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have concluded that it is too early to administer a second booster dose of a Covid-19 vaccine for the general population, but added that such a dose may be given to those aged over 80.

In a joint statement on Wednesday, the European medical agencies said that based on current evidence, “a primary course of vaccination remains the most efficient way to limit the disease burden and impact of Covid-19”.

The medical agencies said the public health impact of a fourth dose in people with a normal immune system came from data from Israel.

They said that “for immunocompetent individuals below 60 years of age, the administration of a second booster dose is not supported by the available data on continued level of vaccine protection against severe disease or death”.

However, they said that for those over the age of 80, “due to the fragility of this population, the lower immune response to vaccination and the higher risk of severe Covid-19, a second booster could be administered”.

They noted that data on safety and efficacy are only available for a fourth dose administered at least four months after a third dose, and this interval, together with local epidemiological data, should be taken into account when deciding on vaccination strategies.

They also said that for people between 60 and 80 years of age, there was no clear evidence in the EU that vaccine protection against severe disease was waning, and consequently there was no sign of an “imminent need” for a second booster for this group.

“For immunocompetent individuals between 60 and 80 years of age, there are currently no clear epidemiological signals from the European region of substantial waning of vaccine protection against severe Covid-19.

“Therefore there is no indication of an imminent need for a second booster dose in this population.”

They added that close monitoring of vaccine effectiveness was essential and a fourth dose may eventually be considered for this age group.

Covid figures

Meanwhile, on Thursday, the Department of Health reported that another 3,150 PCR-confirmed cases of Covid-19 has been recorded in the State, while 3,855 more people had registered a positive antigen test through the HSE portal.

As of 8am on Thursday, 1,251 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, of whom 56 were in ICU. The number of Covid patients in hospital had dropped by 82 on the previous such figure reported on Wednesday.

On Wednesday the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) had approved a second booster of the vaccine to those aged over 65.

It said that the extra dose could be given at least six months after the first, although this interval could be reduced to four months “for operational reasons”.

Niac also recommended that a second booster be given to immunocompromised people aged 12 and older.

A third booster will likely be needed for over-65s and the immunocompromised in the autumn, the committee advised, while provision of a second booster for the rest of the population is being kept under review.