The global debate over COVID-19 vaccine boosters is continuing, with Europe’s health agency now saying there is no need to rush another round of shots even as multiple countries are doling out additional doses.
The evidence on real-world effectiveness shows that all vaccines authorized in the region are highly protective against COVID-19-related hospitalization, severe disease and death, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said on Wednesday.
But the agency also noted extra doses can be considered for people who experience a limited response to the standard regimen, adding that these shots should be treated differently from booster doses.
That proclamation comes as multiple countries around the world are pursuing some form of booster programs, including Germany, France, the U.K., Israel, the U.S. and parts of Canada.
Currently, there are no formal country-wide recommendations in place yet on boosters, leaving provinces to take their own stance on whether or not to roll third doses out to their populations.
Ontario and Alberta, for instance, are offering third doses to some vulnerable populations, while Saskatchewan and Quebec previously announced plans to offer additional doses of mRNA vaccines — not because of waning immunity or the threat of delta, but for people who want to travel to countries that may not recognize mixed-vaccination status.
U.S. has given out more than a million booster doses
South of the border, the U.S. has administered a third dose of either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines to more than a million people since Aug. 13.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended a third dose at least 28 days after the second dose of either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines for people with moderate to severely-compromised immune systems, who are likely to have weaker protection from the two-dose regimens.
The U.S. government also announced a plan to begin offering booster vaccine doses more widely starting on Sept. 20, if the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC decide they are needed.
But that plan has been controversial, and some international experts have questioned whether booster shots are truly necessary for most healthy, fully vaccinated individuals.
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Questions, concerns over booster programs
The emerging data from highly vaccinated countries around the world has also been conflicting, with some signaling a potential drop in immune protection in the population over time amid surges in cases driven by the more-contagious delta variant.
There have also been questions about vaccine equity, given how many countries around the world lack access to COVID-19 vaccines.
“We’re planning to hand out extra life-jackets to people who already have life-jackets, while we’re leaving other people to drown without a single life-jacket,” said Dr. Mike Ryan, the World Health Organization’s top emergencies expert, during a news conference in August.