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COVID-19 VACCINES

UPDATE: Austria to roll out Covid booster shots in autumn

Austria is planning a third Covid booster shot “in due course”, with indications they will take place in autumn.

UPDATE: Austria to roll out Covid booster shots in autumn
Booster shots for Covid-19 look set to take place from autumn 2021. Photo by THOMAS LOHNES / AFP

The Austrian government is starting to prepare for autumn with plans for booster shots against Covid-19. 

The Ministry of Health has told the broadcaster ORF that the federal government will continue to be responsible for the distribution of vaccines, while the federal states will implement the campaigns.

Booster jabs should start to be given from mid-October, initially targeting high risk groups, who were first vaccinated in mid-January.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein said the shots will start in nursing homes as soon as approval is given at a European level. 

Kurz and Mückstein issued a statement saying they expect “new scientific knowledge about the need for a third vaccination soon”. 

“The top priority is protecting the elderly and vulnerable groups. We therefore expect the EMA to be promptly informed about the need for a third vaccination against the coronavirus.

“In any case, we are prepared and have agreed with the state vaccination coordinators that we can start the third vaccination immediately after a possible recommendation.”

It is currently assumed that a third jab should take place around nine months after the second vaccination, unless you were vaccinated with a single dose from the manufacturer Johnson & Johnson or have recovered from a case of Covid-19, in which case the booster shot will be the second jab.

These plans are being developed by the Austrian states, who are in charge of administering the vaccines. 

“Based on the current study situation, it is not yet possible to conclusively assess whether a booster vaccination will really be necessary for everyone after nine months,” said the ministry. 

ORF reports that there may be differences in the plans for booster shots from state to state. 

The exact timing will be known when the European approval authority EMA makes its recommendations, however the Austrian government has indicated it will have enough supply to carry out booster shots regardless of who they will be administered to. 

Lower Austria was the first state to roll out Covid booster shots, doing so in late August. Carintha became the second just a few weeks later

Booster shots for people over 60 are already being administered in Israel, with the second doses of the vaccine carried out five months ago. 

Germany has also indicated it will administer booster shots for people in risk groups from September. 

Vaccinations started in August from January 2021. 

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Reader question: When should I get a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in Austria?

Austria's national vaccination board changed the recommendations for when to get the fourth dose of coronavirus vaccines. Here's what you need to know.

Reader question: When should I get a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in Austria?

Over this weekend, Austria’s national vaccination board (NIG) released an updated recommendation on Covid-19 immunisation, changing its previous guidance for the fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccination slightly.

According to the NIG, booster vaccinations can be given to persons aged 12 years and older and are recommended for anyone who wants to protect themselves.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get the new adapted Covid-19 vaccine in Austria

In particular, the 4th vaccination is advised for persons over 60 years of age, persons at risk of severe disease progression (including pregnant women) and persons with an increased risk of exposure (healthcare workers, people in long-term nursing or care facilities, etc.).

The recommended interval between the third and fourth doses is from six months for people between 12 and 59 years old, NIG said. For those over 60 or risk patients, that interval is from 4 months.

What has changed then?

The main difference is the recommendation for those who have had a Covid-19 infection after their third shot.

“An infection in vaccinated persons usually leads to a booster effect (hybrid immunity), which can affect the optimal timing of the next vaccination.”, NIG said.

However, the board specified that infection could only be “counted” after it was confirmed with a PCR test.

READ ALSO: Austria announces new Covid-19 vaccination campaign

So, if you have had a PCR-confirmed infection after your second or third shot and it was an asymptomatic case, you may follow the regular vaccination scheme. However, you can also postpone your vaccination for up to six months.

If you had a symptomatic case, you may postpone your next dose for up to six months only if you are younger than 60 and not of a risk group.

NIG said: “Persons vaccinated three times who have also had a proven omicron infection show a good booster response and cross-immunity”.

READ ALSO: From inflation to Covid: What to expect from Austria’s winter season

It added: In such cases, especially in persons under 60 years of age, the 4th vaccination within a period of up to 6 months does not achieve any further improvement in immune protection and thus, the 4th vaccination can be postponed accordingly.

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