It is “too early” to consider administering the fourth dose of a coronavirus vaccine to the general population, announced the Covid-19 Taskforce of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Wednesday.
While fourth doses – also called second boosters – can be administered to adults aged 80 and over, EDCD and EMA agreed that there is currently “no conclusive evidence” that there is an added value of a fourth dose for the general population.
However, the agencies also stressed that no safety concerns have emerged from studies on additional boosters, and full vaccination (including a booster dose) remains the most effective way to prevent severe illness during the current pandemic.
Evidence on the effects of a fourth dose comes largely from Israel, where data indicate that a second booster given at least four months after the first booster restores antibody levels without raising any new safety concerns.
“Data also suggest that a second booster provides additional protection against severe disease, although the duration of the benefits is not yet known and the evidence is still limited,” the agencies stated.
ECDC and EMA also urged EU citizens to complete their schedules for both the initial and booster vaccinations, in line with national recommendations. As of the end of March 2022, 83% of adults in the EU had received full initial vaccinations, and only 64% had received a booster dose.
Additionally, the agencies stated that “re-vaccination campaigns” could start in autumn, and authorities could consider the best timing for extra shots, while possibly taking advantage of updated vaccines by then.