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COVID-19 VACCINES

EU medicines agency approves Covid-19 booster vaccine for all adults

The European Medicines Agency has given its approval for a third Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for all adults in order to increase immunity levels, paving the way for booster jabs to be rolled out across the EU.

A nurse administer a booster shot of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine
A nurse administer a booster shot of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. Photo by JUSTIN SULLIVAN / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

The EMA announced on Monday that its human medicines committee (CHMP) has concluded that an extra dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty (BioNTech/Pfizer) may be given to all over-18s. It is studying data to see whether a third Moderna jab could also be administered as a booster vaccine.

The extra jab could be given a least six months after the individual received their second dose of the vaccine.

“The CHMP has evaluated data for Comirnaty showing a rise in antibody levels when a booster dose is given approximately 6 months after the second dose in people from 18 to 55 years old,” read the EMA statement.

“On the basis of this data, the Committee concluded that booster doses may be considered at least 6 months after the second dose for people aged 18 years and older.”

It also concluded that an extra dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may be given to people with severely weakened immune systems, at least 28 days after their second dose.

Each country in the EU and has implemented its own policy towards Covid-19 vaccines and the goes for booster shots. Certain countries have already began booster campaigns for elderly residents with weakened immune systems.

“At national level, public health bodies may issue official recommendations on the use of booster doses, taking into account emerging effectiveness data and the limited safety data,” the EMA said.

“The implementation of vaccination campaigns in the EU remains the prerogative of the national immunisation technical advisory groups (NITAGs) guiding the vaccination campaigns in each EU Member State.

“These bodies are best placed to take into account the local conditions, including the spread of the virus (especially any variants of concern), the availability of vaccines and the capacities of national health systems.”

The EMA said there was no know side effects following a booster jab.

“The risk of inflammatory heart conditions or other very rare side effects after a booster is not known and is being carefully monitored. As for all medicines, EMA will continue to look at all data on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine,” the regulator added.

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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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