World Health Organization vaccination advisers on Thursday recommended offering those most at risk from Covid-19 a second booster shot to boost their immunity.
The Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) said that after the initial vaccination, which typically consists of two doses and an already recommended initial booster dose, an additional vaccination should be offered to certain groups of people.
“We are obviously doing this based on observations related to declining immunity and particularly in the context of Omicron,” WHO Chief Health Advisor Joachim Hornbach told reporters via video link.
The UN health agency has previously recommended that all adults receive a booster shot four to six months after a first round of vaccinations, which usually consists of two shots.
However, SAGE chairman Alejandro Cravioto stressed that Thursday’s recommendation for a second refresher after another four to six months is only for the “highest risk population”.
It “does not represent a general recommendation to vaccinate all adults after the first booster shot,” he said at the virtual press conference.
SAGE said second boosters should be offered to the elderly and to all immunocompromised people, pregnant women, and people with conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart, lung, and kidney diseases that put them at higher risk.
Healthcare workers of all ages should also get the extra push, Cravioto said, insisting on the need to “protect our healthcare systems from the devastation caused when staff are sick and not at work.”
Looking ahead, the SAGE experts pointed out “significant uncertainties related to the evolution of the virus, the characteristics of future variants and the course of the epidemic in light of the increasing global immunity generated by vaccines and infections”.
“It is likely that additional doses may be required within 4 to 12 months after the second booster dose, particularly in individuals who are most vulnerable to serious illness and death,” they said.
At the moment, the booster recommendations refer to the available vaccines designed to combat the original strain of Covid-19.
The WHO has said it will evaluate new vaccines being developed by vaccine makers such as Moderna and Pfizer that target new, rapidly spreading Omicron variants.
However, SAGE emphasized that current vaccines continue to appear to offer high protection “against serious diseases associated with the Omicron variant and its sublineages.”
Second booster shots for at-risk populations “should not be delayed in anticipation of future vaccine variants,” they said.
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