The scientific evidence made available so far is that the vaccine scheme is effective, but it is starting to become clear that this protection, despite being significant, is not as high after a few months as after vaccination in the above age groups 65 years old. In this sense, taking into account the results of two large scientific studies and the experience of some countries, which started the third dose, everything indicates that the administration of this dose has a reduced risk and a positive impact on these people.” The vaccination process explained to the DN what should be followed in relation to the vaccination boost for the senior age group.
According to her, this is also the interpretation that should be accepted by the experts of the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which is expected to reach a decision in early October, probably in the next week, in the sense of authorization of the vaccine booster for people over 65 years of age. “In light of the scientific evidence, everything points out that the EMA’s decision goes in this direction,” said the same source.
Therefore, when this Thursday the prime minister, António Costa, went to the country to announce that the conditions were met to move towards the third and final phase of the prolonged discontinuation that began in July and that everything was ready to move forward. with the third dose at the age of 65, I knew this was the understanding of the experts of the Technical Commission on Vaccination (CTV) against Covid-19.
Portugal is just waiting for the green light from the EMA to move forward, since “”we live in a European space and we must wait for the authorization of the EMA, until vaccines are made available for this purpose”, they explained to the DN. However, there are member states of the EU who have already decided to administer this booster dose, even without a decision by the European health authority, although “they face higher legal risks, without a formal decision from the EMA”, argued the DN sources.
But, last Thursday, António Costa guaranteed that the country has enough doses of vaccines to start this new campaign against covid-19, hoping that it will be finished by Christmas, so that we can all live this season “more protected “.
Remember that Portugal has already managed to reach 83% of the vaccinated population, being six percentage points of the total population that can be inoculated (89%) -11% are under 12 years old. But Portugal is also one of the countries that, since the beginning of September, can vaccinate all people over 16 with immunosuppression with the third dose. The recommendation was made by the Directorate-General for Health (DGS) on September 1, after advice from the CTV, and the European Center for Disease Control (ECDC) considered that it should be recommended “for people with severely weakened immune systems , as part of their primary vaccination.
The DGS norm includes people transplanted (less than three months ago), with HIV/AIDS, patients with active cancer disease, Down syndrome and other autoimmune diseases. A recommendation that is already being followed by other countries outside the European space, namely the USA, which, this week, also authorized the booster vaccine for people over 65 years of age. White House epidemiologist adviser Anthony Fauci had said last Sunday in an interview that a third dose for the elderly was inevitable and that the Biden administration was keen to do so.
The European Union awaits the green light from the EMA, which, since 6 September, and as announced, is evaluating the data presented by Pfizer/BioNTech on the results in relation to the studies carried out on the booster dose for people like over 65 years, given six months after the second dose.
There is still no evidence for a third dose in the youngest
The discussion of the third dose of the covid-19 vaccine will not stop here, even after this decision by the EMA. For DN sources, this vaccine booster must continue to be monitored. Not least because the question is already being raised in relation to the population in general, but, according to Portuguese experts, “there is still not enough information available on this subject. In other words, in relation to the elderly we know that there is a reduction in protection which ends up translating into an increased risk for the disease, but for younger groups this is not so evident”.
Therefore, they underlined, “the issue must continue to be monitored, even in relation to other risk groups. In a while, it may be concluded that the adult population should also receive the third dose“, adding: “Vaccines were created to protect us against serious and very serious disease and, in this regard, they have already proven their effectiveness. Just look at what is happening in Portuguese homes, where some outbreaks are being registered, but with a reduced number of deaths and with mild infections or even without symptoms.”
The same sources point out that, in relation to age groups under 65, this assessment must take into account the reality of each country. “Even within the European space, the realities are different. There are countries that have a higher vaccination coverage than others and there are countries that have a much older population than others, such as Portugal. And, for now, this is the one that must be protected”, they maintain. Remember that ECDC, in an opinion issued earlier this month, admitted “there is no urgent need” to administer booster doses to fully vaccinated individuals in the general population.
The EMA’s decision regarding the third dose should be known as early as next week. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was the first to be analyzed, but, according to a statement from the EU, Moderna’s laboratory will also present its results to the EMA.
The European Union has signed three agreements with Pfizer/BioNTech for the purchase of 2.4 billion doses, with the latest agreement providing for the availability of around 900 million vaccines, meaning that part of these will be used in boosters , if they are deemed necessary or if new variants of the virus emerge. At present, 70% of the EU population has been fully vaccinated. A very different situation is experienced by other countries on continents such as Africa, Asia and Latin America. For this reason, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been asking the richest countries to delay this reinforcement in favor of the vaccination campaign for the most needy countries.