Following a fresh spike in infections and hospitalizations throughout Europe, European Union health officials advised a second COVID-19 booster for everyone over 60, as well as medically susceptible persons, on Monday.
While current coronavirus vaccinations continue to offer adequate protection against hospitalization and death, vaccine efficacy has declined as the virus has mutated.
Since April, EU health officials have suggested a second booster only for persons above the age of 80 and the most susceptible.
The new advice is intended to enable national choices to accelerate immunization efforts, which have come to a standstill in recent months.
“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 (the) Omicron (coronavirus variant),” said Andrea Ammon to Reuters, director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
“This signals the start of a new, widespread COVID-19 wave across the European Union,” she said, adding that giving over-60s and medically fragile people a second booster now will save a considerable number of hospitalizations and deaths.
Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) and partners Pfizer Inc and BioNTech (22UAy.DE) have been testing versions of their COVID vaccines that have been modified to tackle the BA.1 Omicron strain.
Although they claimed that the vaccinations elicited a strong immune response against BA.1 and the more recently circulating variants, they observed a weaker immune response against BA.4 and BA.5.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA), which is presently assessing two variant-adapted vaccinations, anticipates approving the first next-generation vaccines in September.
“In the meantime, it is important to consider using currently authorised vaccines as second boosters in people who are most vulnerable,” said EMA executive director Emir Cooke.
The ECDC noted on Monday that there is no clear evidence to warrant delivering a second booster dosage to those under the age of 60 who are not at a greater risk of serious illness.