‘Too early’ for fourth Covid vaccine dose for general population – ECDC, EMA

The European Centre for Disease Control and the European Medicines Agency’s Covid-19 task force has concluded that it is too early to consider using a fourth dose of mRNA Covid-19 vaccines in the general population.

However, both agencies have agreed that a fourth dose (or second booster) can be given to adults 80 years of age and above, after reviewing data on the higher risk of severe Covid-19 in this age group and the protection provided by a fourth dose.

They also also noted that there is currently no clear evidence in the EU that vaccine protection against severe disease is waning substantially in adults with normal immune systems aged 60 to 79 years, and therefore no clear evidence to support the immediate use of a fourth dose.

The agencies said that evidence on the effects of a fourth dose comes largely from Israel, where data indicate that a second booster given at least four months after first booster restores antibody levels without raising any new safety concerns.

Data also suggests that a second booster provides additional protection against severe disease, although the duration of the benefits is not yet known and the evidence is still limited.

Fourth Covid vaccine dose recommended for over 65s

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has recommended a fourth Covid vaccine dose for everyone aged 65 and older.

It also recommended a second booster for those aged 12 and older who are immunocompromised and children aged five to 11 who are immunocompromised should complete an extended primary course, which is a total of three vaccine doses.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said he accepted the advice of NIAC, and that planning has already begun within the HSE for the roll out of this vaccine dose.

He said NIAC has advised that there should be a six-month period between this new dose and the previous one, but that a four-month time gap may be appropriate in some cases.

The minister said: “NIAC has advised ideally that there would be a six-month gap between this new booster and the last one, but it could be four months where that is appropriate.

“So we’ll be looking to put that in place now, very quickly with HSE.”