01/21/2022 / By Ramon Tomey
The World Health Organization (WHO) says there is no evidence supporting the need to inject children and adolescents with Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine boosters. The global health body instead proposes that boosters be given to more vulnerable populations.
WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan made this claim during a Jan. 18 press briefing. “There’s no evidence right now that healthy children or healthy adolescents need boosters. No evidence at all,” she told reporters. Swaminathan continued that the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) would meet “to consider … how countries should think about giving boosters to their populations with a view to protecting people.”
“The aim is to protect the most vulnerable, those at highest risk of severe disease and dying. Those are our elderly populations [and] immuno-compromised people with underlying conditions,” said the chief scientist.
Swaminathan also mentioned healthcare workers as a sector need to be protected through boosters. “If a lot of healthcare workers get infected as we see now, they can be out sick – and we don’t want them getting severely ill. So there [should be] boosters for that population,” she explained.
Despite this, Swaminathan acknowledged the waning immunity provided by vaccines against the omicron variant. “Against omicron, many of the vaccines have shown a reduction in efficacy against infection. That’s why we see a lot of breakthrough infections, but there are mostly not resulting in severe disease. There is some waning [of vaccine-induced immunity] which occurs over a period of time, and we’ve seen that there’s a slight drop in the protection. Mostly against infection, but also a little bit against the severe disease.”
Swaminathan’s Jan. 18 remarks followed an earlier statement by the WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on COVID-19 Vaccine Composition (TAG-CO-VAC). The advisory group said that repeatedly injecting booster doses of the original vaccines is an unsustainable endeavor. (Related: WHO warns against boosters, says strategy “not viable” for new variants.)
“A vaccination strategy based on repeated booster doses of the original vaccine composition is unlikely to be appropriate or sustainable,” the TAG-CO-VAC said in a Jan. 11 statement. “The immediate priority for the world is accelerating access to the primary vaccination, particularly for groups at greater risk of developing severe disease.”
The WHO is not the only health authority that has advised against frequent COVID-19 booster injections. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) warned that repeated boosters every four to six months could tire out people and eventually weaken their immune systems.
“While use of additional boosters can be part of contingency plans, repeated vaccinations within short intervals would not represent a sustainable long-term strategy,” EMA Head for Biological Threats and Vaccine Strategy Marco Cavaleri said during a Jan. 11 press conference. He continued that boosters “can be done once, or maybe twice, but it’s not something that we can think should be repeated constantly.” (Related: European Medicines Agency advises against frequent COVID boosters, warns of risks.)
“We need to think about how we can transition from the current pandemic setting to a more endemic setting,” Cavaleri added. To this end, he and other EMA officials suggested that countries should leave more time between booster programs and tying these to the onset of the cold season in each hemisphere. The regulator’s recommendations appeared to mirror vaccination programs against influenza in different countries.
The head of EMA’s vaccine strategy also pointed out the impact of the omicron variant on the current vaccines. Given omicron’s ability to bypass vaccine-induced immunity, more data is needed in order to decide whether a strain-specific shot should be developed.
“It is important that there is a good discussion around the choice of the composition of the vaccine to make sure that we have a strategy that is not just reactive … and try to come up with an approach that will be suitable in order to prevent a future variant,” said Cavaleri.
“Preliminary results from recently published studies are showing that vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease is significantly reduced for omicron and tends to wane over time. More vaccinated people will develop a breakthrough infection and disease resulting from omicron due to the immune evasion associated with this variant.”
“With the increase of immunity in [the] population – and with omicron, there will be a lot of natural immunity taking place on top of vaccination. We will be fast moving toward a scenario that will be closer to endemicity.”
Watch the video below of Del Bigtree and Jeffery Jaxen discussing the need for boosters.
Vaccines.news has more about COVID-19 boosters.
Vaccines.News is a fact-based public education website published by Vaccines News Features, LLC.
All content copyright © 2018 by Vaccines News Features, LLC.
All trademarks, registered trademarks and servicemarks mentioned on this site are the property of their respective owners.