WHO advisers recommend 3rd COVID vaccine dose for highest-risk groups

COVID vaccination in Pakistan
COVID vaccination in Pakistan

International Monetary Fund, Saiyna Bashir / Flickr cc

World Health Organization (WHO) vaccine advisers met last week to discuss and weigh in on several vaccine issues, including a recommendation that people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised receive a third COVID-19 vaccine dose.

Vaccine-related developments

The group, called the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE), said people in the immunocompromised groups should be offered an additional dose in the vaccine series, since they are less likely to respond adequately to vaccination with the standard series and are at high risk for severe disease.

WHO leaders have previously urged countries to postpone broader use of booster doses to free up more vaccine for countries that had much less access to supplies.

SAGE said its third-dose recommendation applies to all vaccines that the WHO has approved for emergency use. They include Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca-Oxford, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Sinopharm, and Sinovac.

For Sinopharm and Sinovac, two inactivated vaccines from China, SAGE said a third dose should be offered to people ages 60 and older as part of an extended primary series. It added that a third dose of a different vaccine could be considered, based on vaccine supply and access. However, SAGE urged countries to prioritize 2-dose coverage in that age group, then administer third doses, starting with the oldest age groups.

In other vaccine news, Germany-based CureVac today announced that it is withdrawing from regulatory consideration its current COVID-19 vaccine candidate, an mRNA vaccine that uses unmodified RNA, to focus on a second-generation candidate that it is developing with GSK. The company projects that the newer vaccine will be ready for regulatory approval in 2022.

The CureVac vaccine had disappointing results in late-stage clinical trials, which suggested an overall efficacy of 48%.

In other developments, India's vaccine advisory group today recommended the country's Bharat Biotech COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in children ages 2 to 18, according to Reuters.

More global headlines

  • Committees from England's Parliament today released a 150-page report that detailed lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the main findings were that a delayed first lockdown was a major misstep and failures in testing and contact tracing made the situation worse. On the other hand, it called the vaccine rollout one of the most effective initiatives in the United Kingdom's history. The report included information from 50 witnesses and 38 recommendations to the government.

  • Africa's cases have been declining for 3 months and are now at a level below the start of the most recent surge, the WHO's African regional office said today in its latest weekly health emergencies report. Though cases continue to fall, the current situation is in flux in different countries, with locations including Angola, Cameroon, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea reporting an upward trend. Though vaccination levels in Africa remain far below the rest of the world, deliveries are picking up, with 12 million doses received in the last week.

  • Russia today reported a daily record high for deaths, with 973 fatalities reported, according to Reuters. Officials said only about one-third of the population is vaccinated, and
    President Vladimir Putin is pushing for vaccination efforts to pick up speed.

  • The global total today rose to 238,540,001 cases, and 4,861,885 people have died from their infections, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

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