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WHO recommends not giving more booster vaccinations

An agency panel of experts said the additional doses are now only needed for high-risk patients. The motives

By iProfessional

28/03/2023 – 13,24hs

Vaccine experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that the booster vaccines against Covid-19 are no longer administered to populations other than high-risk groups, given the high level of immunization achieved by populations in many countries.

As explained by the referents, the need for a booster dose, between six and 12 months after the previous one, is maintained only in groups that include the elderly, immunosuppressed and health workers.

For the first time these experts, from the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Vaccines (SAGE), divided the population into three risk groups (high, medium and low): the need for new booster doses remains only for the first, which includes the three aforementioned groups.

“It is a reflection that a large part of the population is already vaccinated, has been infected with Covid-19, or both at the same time,” said Hanna Nohynek, president of SAGE.

For people at medium risk of Covid-19 (adults under 60 years of age and children or adolescents with certain health problems) the SAGE recommends only one first full dose of the vaccine plus another last booster the necessary period (something that in many countries has already been completed in 2022).

“Although additional boosters are safe for this group, they are not routinely recommended by SAGE, given the comparatively low returns to public health,” they added.

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The WHO now recommends reinforcing vaccination against Covid-19 only in the population at risk

Vaccine against Covid-19: they recommend reconsidering your immunization

In the low-risk group (children and adolescents) SAGE recognizes the benefits that vaccines and booster doses can have in their prevention, although it recommends reconsidering their immunization.

“The impact on public health of vaccinate healthy children and adolescents is comparatively much less than the established benefits of traditional core vaccines for children, such as rotavirus, measles, and pneumococcal conjugate vaccines,” they added.

Regarding babies, SAGE highlights that “the burden of severe Covid-19 in children under 6 months is still higher than in children from 6 months to 5 years”. “Vaccinating pregnant people, even with an additional dose if more than 6 months have passed since the last dose, protects both them and the fetus, while helping to reduce the likelihood of infant hospitalization,” they added.

“Each country should consider its specific context when deciding whether to continue vaccinating low-risk groups such as healthy children and adolescents, as long as it does not compromise other crucial immunizations,” Nohynek said at the press conference.

According to the report, countries like Argentina – which already have a policy for additional reinforcements – “should assess the evolving need based on national disease burden, profitability, and opportunity costs,” they concluded.

The meetings also discussed global vaccination programs against other diseases, such as malaria, where one of the first vaccines designed against it, RTS,S, has been tested in Ghana, Malawi and Kenya since 2019.

The vaccine has shown a substantial reduction in severe cases of the disease among children, highlighted SAGE, who indicated that another 28 countries have shown interest in introducing this product into their health networks.

On the other hand, the experts expressed concern about the reduction that the pandemic has produced in vaccination programs against measles, with some 25 million children affected by it, which has caused the lowest coverage rate since 2008.

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