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Health Council: give people over 60 and residents a booster shot

People over 60 and people who live in a care institution should be able to get an extra corona jab. That is what the Health Council recommends. According to the Health Council, the vaccines still work very well against serious infections and hospital admissions, but there are indications that the effectiveness of the vaccines decreases slightly in older people.

The Health Council therefore considers it wise to start with a booster in these groups now, before the number of serious infections starts to increase sharply due to reduced effectiveness.

According to the advice, the booster can be used from six months after the “primary vaccination series”: that is, after the second shot with Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, or after the first and only shot with Janssen. Whoever initially got AstraZeneca or Janssen will get a booster with Pfizer or Moderna.

It is recommended to start with the oldest age groups. The reason for also giving people under the age of sixty who live in care institutions a shot is that there is a higher chance of transmitting the virus there.

The outgoing cabinet will soon decide whether to adopt the Health Council’s advice.

Not for current wave of contamination

The Health Council notes that there is not yet enough scientific evidence that boosters for the entire population will also reduce the virus circulation or will reduce the pressure on healthcare. According to the council, boosters cannot help reduce current infection numbers without other additional measures. It will also not reduce the pressure on the ICU because it mainly involves people who have not been vaccinated at all.

The aim of the Health Council’s advice is therefore to make the protection of individuals as optimal as possible: “The committee’s advice for a booster campaign should therefore not be seen as advice for combating the current wave of contamination.”

The Health Council also points out the importance of good timing. Waiting longer with a booster shot may be beneficial as vaccines may become available that have been specifically developed for the prevailing variants of the virus. Pharmaceuticals such as Pfizer and Moderna are in the process of developing them, but it is unknown when they will hit the market.

Waiting longer could also allow other countries that have received few vaccines to do more first and second shots: “Using scarce vaccines for primary vaccination is still the most effective strategy to reduce global mortality and morbidity from COVID-19.” reduce.”

People with weakened immune systems

Until now, only an extra shot has been given in the Netherlands to people with weakened immune systems in whom the first two injections have elicited too little or no immune response at all. It is estimated that this concerns a group of about 400,000 people. The third shot in that group is not considered a booster, but as part of the primary vaccination series.

In mid-September, the Health Council said it saw no evidence yet that a third shot is needed in other groups, but that it might become necessary: ​​”As soon as there is a declining trend in vaccine effectiveness against serious disease, booster vaccination should be considered.”

Boosters in other countries

Boosters are already being installed in other countries, or plans have been made for them. In Israel, everyone from the age of 12 is eligible for a third shot, in the United States everyone from the age of 65 and people over 18 in poor health. Some European countries have also started a booster campaign.

Germany offers the over-70s the opportunity to have a third injection, Belgium the over-65s, residents of care institutions and also healthcare workers. Like the Dutch Health Council, the Belgian Health Council still saw too little evidence for the usefulness of boosters in the general population. The Flemish government was in favor of a booster for every 12-year-old.

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