Countries Weigh Need for Booster COVID-19 Shots
Sept 14 (Reuters) – COVID-19 vaccine booster shots will be made widely available to Americans this month, while several other countries including Britain, Israel, Germany and France, have decided to offer boosters to older adults and people with weak immune systems.
There is no consensus yet among scientists and agencies that a third dose is necessary.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Aug. 18 that current data does not indicate a need for booster shots, and has repeatedly called for a delay, arguing that the most vulnerable people worldwide should be fully vaccinated before high-income countries deploy a top-up.
British officials on Sept. 14 recommended that all vulnerable people, frontline health staff and those aged over 50 be offered a booster shot.
The African Union’s top health official said on Sept. 9. that rich nations would do better to send COVID-19 vaccines to Africa rather than hoarding them for domestic third-dose booster shots that scientific evidence does not back.
The following outlines the options countries and regions are considering on the issue:
Federal health authorities are discussing shortening the timeline for COVID-19 booster shots to allow additional doses sooner than the eight-month window officials have been targeting, President Joe Biden said on Aug. 27.
Health officials said earlier in August that booster shots will be made widely available from Sept. 20 to Americans who received their initial inoculation of two-dose COVID-19 vaccines made by Moderna and by Pfizer and BioNTech at least eight months earlier.
European Union countries that decide to use COVID-19 vaccine booster shots may face increased legal risks because the additional dose has not yet been recommended by the EU drugs regulator, the European Commission said on Aug. 26.
The EU drugs regulator said on Aug. 6 there is still not enough data to recommend COVID-19 vaccine boosters.
Recent supply contracts with Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have included the potential for the bloc to buy booster shots.
Health Minister Carla Vizzotti said on Aug. 31 the capacity to give a booster shot to health workers and people with weaker immune systems might be evaluated in November.
Austria plans to start COVID-19 vaccine booster shots on Oct. 17, nine months after the first group of people to get the shots received their second dose.
Belgium has authorised the use of boosters – specifically mRNA shots – for immunosuppressed people. More data is needed before considering extra shots for the elderly and people living in nursing homes.
British officials said on Tuesday as they recommended all vulnerable people, frontline health staff and those aged over 50 be offered a booster shot. They said COVID-19 vaccines have saved more than 112,000 lives and averted 24 million cases of the disease.
It has said it would buy 60 million more doses of Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine ahead of the booster programme, bringing its total order of the shot to 100 million doses.
Brazilians should prepare for annual COVID-19 immunisations to reinforce vaccines, the head of public-sector laboratory Butantan said in May.
Cambodia started on Aug. 12 offering AstraZeneca booster shots to those who have received the inactivated virus vaccines developed by Sinopharm and Sinovac.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization released on Sept. 10 a report recommending booster shots of an authorized mRNA vaccine to those who are moderately or severely immunocompromised.
Chile began on Aug. 11 administering booster shots to those already inoculated with Sinovac’s vaccine in a bid to lock in early success following one of the world’s fastest mass vaccination drives.
By the end of October, the country is expected to complete giving regular regimen doses to 1.1 billion people as well as booster shots to limited groups such as the elderly and high-risk employees.
The Czech government will offer a booster COVID-19 vaccine shot from Sept. 20 to any previously vaccinated person.
Danes with weak immune systems such as cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, or those with organ transplants, will soon be recommended to get a COVID-19 vaccine booster, the Danish Health Authority said on Aug. 20.
Dominican health authorities started distributing a voluntary third vaccine dose in early July.
Ecuador will administer a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine to people with weak immune systems and will carry out tests to determine if the rest of the inoculated population also needs a booster, Health Minister Ximena Garzon said on Aug. 18.
The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare recommended on Sept. 8 that third coronavirus vaccine doses be first administered to people aged 12 or more with weakened immune systems.
France plans to roll out COVID-19 vaccine booster shots in nursing homes from Sept. 12 or Sept. 13 onwards. Meanwhile, people aged over 65 and those with existing medical conditions are able to book appointments for a booster shot from early September.
Germany will in September start to offer a booster shot to vulnerable people, such as the elderly and those with weak immune systems. The shots will be mRNA-vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna regardless of what was used previously.
Greece will make booster vaccines available to vulnerable groups from Sept. 14, Health Ministry experts said, hoping to curb a rise in Delta variant infections.
Authorities would start making booster jab appointments to persons with compromised immune systems and individuals over the age of 60.
Hungary has been offering an optional third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine from Aug. 1.
Indonesia started giving booster shots produced by Moderna to medical workers in July and is considering extra doses for wider use.
Ireland will give vaccine booster shots made by Pfizer or Moderna to elderly people who were fully vaccinated at least six months ago, irrespective of what vaccine they received initially, the health ministry said on Sept. 8.
Israel on Aug. 29 began offering a booster shot to anyone who has been fully vaccinated, lowering the age of eligibility to 12.
Italy’s medicines agency AIFA said on Sept. 9 it had approved the use of a third dose for immunocompromised people, those over 80 years old, nursing home residents, and front-line health workers frequently exposed to the virus.
Health clinics in Moscow started offering booster shots in July to people vaccinated six months ago or more.
The Philippines is allotting 45.3 billion pesos ($899 million) for booster shots under its 2022 budget, an official said on Aug. 19, even as health authorities have yet to conclude there is a need for a third dose.
Poland will give third doses of COVID-19 vaccine to people with weak immune systems. The doses will be made available from Sept. 1.
The Serbian health authorities authorised a third dose of COVID-19 vaccines for people with compromised immune systems, health workers and anyone vaccinated at least six months ago, country’s labour minister said on Aug 15.
Singapore said in May it was making plans for booster shots later this year or early next year, if necessary.
Slovenia will most probably start recommending a third vaccine dose, the head of the National advisory committee on immunization, Bojana Beovic, told the Slovenian national broadcaster on Aug. 18.
South Korea plans to begin giving out booster shots from October, as soon as the country achieves fully vaccinating 70% of the population. Initial booster doses will go to those with weakened immune systems or deemed to be at high risk, and others will receive them six months after full vaccination.
Spain’s healthcare regulator approved on Sept. 7 a third dose of COVID-19 vaccines for people with severely compromised immune systems who are likely to have weaker protection from the conventional two-dose inoculation schemes.
The majority of Swedes will be offered a booster shot against COVID in 2022, while high risk groups could get a third shot this autumn, the health authority said on Aug. 3.
Switzerland has ordered 43 million doses of vaccines, including preparations for potential booster shots in 2022, should they be needed, the Health Ministry said.
The United Arab Emirates will start providing a booster shot to all fully vaccinated people. The shot will be available to people considered at high risk three months after their second vaccine dose, and six months for others.
In June, the UAE and Bahrain made the Pfizer vaccine available as a booster shot to those initially immunised with a vaccine developed by China’s Sinopharm.
Bahraini authorities have also authorised the use of a booster dose of the Sputnik V vaccine, the first time the Russian shot has been approved for a third dose, the state-run Bahrain News Agency said on Sept. 11.
Thailand plans to give AstraZeneca or mRNA-type booster shots to an estimated 3.4 million people who were administered the Sinovac brand earlier. Booster doses have already been given to medical and frontline workers who received the Chinese vaccine.
Turkey is allowing people who were inoculated with Sinovac’s vaccine to take an additional Pfizer dose, the health ministry said on Aug. 16.
Uruguay offers a Pfizer dose for those fully vaccinated with Sinovac’s Coronavac.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized a third dose of COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna on Aug. 13 for people with compromised immune systems.
Pfizer and BioNtech also submitted data for COVID-19 vaccine booster authorization to the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
Moderna Inc MRNA.O said on Sept. 3 it had asked the EU drugs regulator for conditional approval of a booster shot of its vaccine at a 50 microgram dose.
The company also said it had completed data submission for the use of a third booster dose of its two-shot vaccine to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Pfizer and Moderna have raised the prices of their COVID-19 vaccines in their latest EU supply contracts, the Financial Times reported on Aug. 1.
Moderna had earlier struck deals with Spain’s Rovi and Switzerland’s Lonza at a Dutch plant that would boost 50-microgram dose production – half the level of its original shots – in Europe to up to 600 million doses annually, with the capacity due to come on line this year.
On Aug. 5, Moderna said its COVID-19 shot was about 93% effective four to six months after the second dose, showing hardly any change from the 94% efficacy reported in its original clinical trial.
It expects, however, a COVID-19 booster to be necessary prior to the winter season.
AstraZeneca said it was looking into how long the vaccine’s protection lasts and if a booster dose would be needed.
(Reporting by Matthias Blamont in Paris, Michael Erman in New York, Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago, John Miller in Zurich, Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt, Miyoung Kim in Singapore, Alistair Smout in London, Essi Lehto in Helsinki, Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem, Dagmarah Mackos, Milla Nissi, Pawel Goraj, and Veronica Snoj in Gdansk; Editing by David Holmes, Susan Fenton and Bernadette Baum)
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