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New evidence Booster vaccine for adults on cards as Covid-19 jab protection weakens

Study shows waning protection from virus six months after jab

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The EU's drug watchdog approved booster doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for all people aged 18 and over.

The EU's drug watchdog approved booster doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for all people aged 18 and over.

The EU's drug watchdog approved booster doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for all people aged 18 and over.

The chances of booster vaccines being rolled out to more age groups to reduce the spread of Covid-19 has increased amid new evidence on waning effectiveness against infections.

A study in the Lancet today shows effectiveness against infection declined to 47pc six months after people got two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

However, crucially, the findings also showed it still remained strong in preventing someone being hospitalised with Covid-19 for at least six months.

It comes as incidence in adults in this country may be trending upwards as people return to work and colleges reopen.

The Lancet study said that “effectiveness against Covid-19 infection fell from 88pc within a month of receiving two doses to 47pc after six months. However, effectiveness against hospitalisations remained at 90pc overall for all variants”.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) yesterday cleared the way for Pfizer booster shots to be given to people over the age of 18 with healthy immune systems. It said it examined data from Pfizer showing a rise in antibody levels – a measure of protection – when a booster shot is given around six months after the second dose in people aged 18 to 55 years old.

It concluded that booster doses “may be considered at least six months after the second dose for people aged 18 years and older”.

However, it added that it is a decision for each country to decide whether to give booster doses to healthy people “taking into account emerging effectiveness data and the limited safety data.

“The risk of inflammatory heart conditions or other very rare side-effects after a booster is not known and is being carefully monitored.

“As for all medicines, EMA will continue to look at all data on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.”

Currently, the HSE is rolling out additional Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to people with certain conditions whose immune systems are very low, as well as to people over 80 and residents of nursing homes over 65.

The EMA said people with very weakened immune systems can get an additional shot of Pfizer or Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at least 28 days after their the second dose.

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The study in the Lancet from Kaiser Permanente and Pfizer stressed the need to monitor vaccine effectiveness to determine which people should be prioritised for booster shots.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) is assessing evidence and will decide on booster roll-outs.

It comes as the number of new cases of the coronavirus fell to 892 yesterday, the lowest since mid-July.

However, there were 333 Covid-19 patients in hospital, an increase of 14 since the weekend. The number of these patients in intensive care reached 64, an increase of four.

Professor Philip Nolan of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) said the number of Covid-19 patients in hospital is stable or increasing slowly.

He added: “This will continue to be monitored as this incidence is higher overall than we would like and represents a risk.”

Incidence in adults may be “trending upwards as we return to higher education and work”, he said.

Prof Nolan described overall incidence as “stable” but said it was a “complex picture”.

The positive news is that incidence in children has fallen so that it is now lower than it was in mid-August before schools opened.

“Incidence in children and adolescents has fallen. Incidence in children aged five to 12 years is now lower than it was before schools opened,” he added.

The peak after children return to the classroom was similar to that seen when schools reopened in March last year.

Prof Nolan said the number of children aged five to 12 admitted to hospital was also low, around three a week.

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