EU experts cautious on fourth dose of COVID-19
It is ‘too early’ to consider using a fourth dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in the general population, according to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention & Control (ECDC).
However, experts from both agencies agreed that a fourth dose – or second booster shot – can be given to adults 80 years of age. The evidence is not yet strong enough to suggest that immunity is waning substantially in adults aged 60 to 79 years with normal immune systems.
The EU agencies is continuing to monitor data and said that future surges in case numbers could prompt a rethink. Authorised vaccines are safe to use in all adults, but experts are weighing when a fourth dose might be recommended. National authorities remain free to consider distributing a fourth dose if they wish, and several countries are already inviting older people and those at higher risk to role up their sleeves again.
Re-vaccination campaigns could start in the autumn when cases of the disease tend to rise. By that time, there may be reformulated vaccines better suited to the Omicron variant.
Meanwhile, EMA Executive Director, Emer Cooke, praised the contribution of vaccines in combatting the pandemic – and in reducing the impact of more than 20 life-threatening diseases. Speaking during European Immunization Week at the end of April, she highlighted the long-term decline in cases of measles, polio and tetanus, as well as the potential to combat diseases such as cervical cancer and malaria.
‘The five vaccines authorised against COVID-19 in the EU are the most important tools that we have to protect us against severe illness, hospitalisation and death as a consequence of COVID-19,’ said Cooke. ‘470,000 lives have been saved among those aged 60 years and over since the start of COVID-19 vaccination roll-out in 33 countries in Europe.’
She urged the public to trust the science, even when faced with ‘a tsunami of fake news’. ‘The safest and most effective vaccines amount to nothing if people don’t take them,’ Cooke said. ‘Vaccines help us to keep ourselves and our loved ones protected from infectious diseases.’