European officials say COVID-19 booster isn't urgent

Vaccination close-up
Vaccination close-up

Mufid Majnun / Unsplash

While the world continues to grapple with increased cases, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said COVID-19 vaccine boosters are not urgently needed for healthy people.

Prioritize the unvaccinated, ECDC says

The ECDC report, released today, partly echoes the World Health Organization's call last month for a booster moratorium on COVID-19 vaccine doses as a very low percentage of people worldwide have received the original full vaccination regimen.

"In this situation, the priority now should be to vaccinate all those eligible individuals who have not yet completed their recommended vaccination course," an ECDC press release states. "To complement vaccination efforts, it is also crucial to continue applying measures such as physical distancing, hand and respiratory hygiene, and using face masks where needed, in particular in high-risk settings such as long-term care facilities or hospital wards with patients at risk of severe COVID-19.

The ECDC takes care to note that booster doses for those with healthy immune systems are different from additional COVID-19 doses for those with compromised immune systems—those should already be considered, according to the agency.

In this vein, the UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) announced yesterday that people with severely weakened immune systems should seek a third, mRNA-based dose.

Part of the deliberation included preliminary data from the OCTAVE trial, where 40% of immunocompromised people had low levels of antibodies after two doses. While the JCVI acknowledges that many third-dose studies are still ongoing, it says a third dose is unlikely to have adverse effects.

If a UK booster program is advised later on, immunocompromised people who received a third dose will be offered an additional dose "at a suitable interval after their third dose."

Surges in COVID hot spots

Ramifications from the world's rising case numbers include civil unrest in Thailand and tightened restrictions in Bulgaria.

Reports of protests in Thailand broke a few weeks ago, but photos and coverage on Twitter show people are back, demanding Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha's resignation due to corruption, economic mismanagement, and a poor COVID-19 response.

Out of Thailand's 1.2 million infections and 12,103 COVID-19 deaths, most have occurred since April this year, according to Reuters.

In Bulgaria, the European Union's least-vaccinated country, new curfews and gathering limitations will be imposed to stem COVID-19 cases, Reuters reports. Through October, restaurants and bars will have to close at 10 pm starting Sep 7, and other mandates include a ban on music festivals, a 50% limit at cinemas and theaters, and a spectator ban at indoor sports competitions.

On the other hand, cases in Australia's Victoria state have caused it to follow New South Wales in abandoning its no-COVID tolerance, according to Reuters. As the Economist explains, this central government–approved policy shift means that cases will be allowed to rise without triggering mitigations such as lockdowns so long as hospitals can cope with them.

The Australian Medical Association, however, is asking governments to take a close look at healthcare systems to make sure staffing and resource levels are adequate. "If you have opened up and you haven't looked at the safety nets or the life rafts that we've got, we might end up actually trying to push more people on the life rafts and capsizing them," AMA Vice President Chris Moy, MBBS, told ABC, according to Reuters.

While Australia has had very little COVID-19 during the entire pandemic—reporting 1,019 deaths and a little over 56,500 cases—the country only has about 36% of people 16 and older fully vaccinated.

More global headlines

  • Israel reported a record daily high of new COVID-19 cases yesterday (11,187), but serious cases have continued to decline, according to Haaretz. The country is currently rolling out third vaccine doses, which the Wall Street Journal says is now required for all of its vaccine passport holders to enjoy full benefits.

  • Some of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine doses sent from South Africa to Europe are going back to the African continent, and the company has said further manufacturing at its South African partner site will be for African countries, reports Fierce Pharma.

  • According to the John Hopkins tracker, the global COVID-19 total today is at 218,814,466 cases and 4,548,237 deaths.

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