EU updates vaccine recommendations after a spike in COVID-19 cases
As the latest wave of COVID-19 cases continues in Europe, health agencies have recommended that the over 60s and the clinically vulnerable should get a second booster dose of the mRNA vaccine to protect themselves.
According to the latest data from the World Health Organization, in the last seven days, there were 2,925,677 new cases in the European region and 3087 deaths.
This has led to an increase in hospitalizations and people being admitted to intensive care units. Because of this, the EMA says that “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.”
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) last updated their advice in April 2022, advising all people over 80 to get a second booster. This recommendation has now been updated to include a younger age group.
A second booster dose needs to be administered at least four months after the first, so the EMA has advised health authorities to focus on vaccinating those who haven’t had a booster vaccine in the last six months as quickly as possible, with an immediate rollout if possible.
High levels of cases in Europe
According to the ECDC, the rising number of cases is down to the BA.5 subvariant of omicron, which is also causing rising hospital and ICU admissions in numerous EU countries.
The agency warned that this could trigger the start of a more widespread COVID-19 wave and that a second booster dose targets “the groups most at risk of severe disease, and giving a second booster to those groups now will avert a significant number of hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19.”
Both the ECDC and the EMA have called for public health bodies to start planning additional doses for the autumn and winter months, especially for those at the highest risk of the disease, including the elderly, healthcare workers, and those with long-term health conditions.
However, the European agencies say that, at the moment, there’s not enough evidence to start recommending second booster doses to lower-risk groups.