There is no real evidence supporting the need for a population wide COVID vaccine booster campaign, according to immunologist Christine Loscher.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) yesterday approved booster doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for everyone aged 18 and over.
Third doses of both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were also approved for people with severely weakened immune systems.
It said booster shots should only be considered once a minimum of six months has passed since the second dose – and noted that countries should make their own decisions on whether to roll them out.
Is currently rolling out third doses to people with compromised immune systems with a booster campaign for people over 65 in residential care and everyone over 80 due to get underway soon.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, DCU Immunology Professor Christine Loscher said she does not expect to see that expanded to younger age groups any time soon.
“When we actually approved the boosters for the over 65s and the over-80s a couple weeks ago we did that actually before the EMA approved booster shots,” she said. “We did that off-label so we could get started.
“There is no real evidence at the moment that, in the general population, that you are going to require a booster.
“If we look at Israel, people will say that actually the Israelis are way ahead of us, they have given three million boosters and they said their case numbers have come down, but when they started giving their boosters, they only had about 70% of their population vaccinated so it is a bit different.
“They did that in parallel, so it is hard to draw conclusions.”
She noted that the rollout to the immunocompromised is not considered a booster – but rather a three-shot programme.
The rollout to the elderly and those in residential care on the other is a booster campaign.
“They had their vaccines at the start of the year,” she said. “They have had about six months of an interval and what you are doing with those people is you are recognising that, because they are over a certain age, they probably had a good response to the vaccine but not as good as other people.
“You are also recognising the fact that, if they get a breakthrough infection this winter, they may be more at risk for having a severe infection, even though they are vaccinated.
“It really comes off the back of an awful lot of data that shows that if you give a third shot about six months after the first two shots, you can get antibody levels ten times what they were before so for these individuals, that would be an extra layer of protection going into the winter.”
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