As the number of COVID-19 cases is increasing worldwide, the European Union health authorities have recommended a second booster vaccination for those aged over 60.
The Stockholm-based European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the Amsterdam-based European Medicines Agency (EMA) said the second booster – effectively the fourth jab – should be considered for those aged between 60 and 79, as well as those with pre-existing medical conditions putting them at risk of severe disease.
The two authorities had recommended a second booster for those 80 and older in April. EU Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said there was 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," she said.
"This is how we protect ourselves, our loved ones and our vulnerable populations." The ECDC added that at the moment, "there is no clear evidence to support giving a second booster dose to people below 60 years of age who are not at higher risk of severe disease."
Health policy in the EU remains the province of the individual member states, with EU health policy serving to complement national policies. German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach welcomes the vaccination recommendation for people over 60. As for younger people, he told public broadcaster WDR, it would depend. "In the case of younger people who, however, have many contacts or who, for example, have concomitant diseases, I would personally discuss the fourth vaccination in consultation with the attending physician," he said.
An Israeli study on fourth vaccinations and the omicron variant in people in nursing homes recently found vaccine effectiveness of 64% to 67% in terms of protection against hospitalization and 75% in terms of protection from death. The study in the journal Jama Internal Medicine included data on almost 44,000 people. "The fourth vaccinations reduce hospitalizations and deaths – they are lifesavers," the study's co-author, Chitam Muhsen, told the Times of Israel.