NEWS

Booster shot for over-60s, vulnerable groups

Health authorities recommend a third dose of the vaccine but stress it is not mandatory

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With about 56.7% of the Greek population fully vaccinated, health authorities have recommended that groups at high risk of infection, such as people over the age of 60, the elderly at care units, as well as health professionals, should be administered a third booster dose of their coronavirus vaccine.

However, Marios Themistokleous, secretary general in charge of vaccinations, said the third shot will not be mandatory, announcing that the relevant platform to book an appointment will open on September 30.

Furthermore, the president of the National Vaccination Committee, Maria Theodoridou, said the third dose will be administered six to eight months after the second shot. 

“Vaccines are effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death,” she said as health authorities race against time to increase the percentage of those vaccinated to 70% in an attempt to build wide immunity against the virus.

“Antibodies as an indicator of the immune response decrease over time, five to six months after vaccination,” she said, stressing that this consideration, combined with the emergence of the Delta variant, poses “a risk to a number of individuals.”

Those at risk, she noted, are those who did not develop antibodies when they were first vaccinated (immunosuppressed individuals, transplants), and therefore the booster shot has the character of a supplementary dose.

The second group of individuals at risk are those for whom factors such as age and others (underlying diseases) lead to reduced antibodies, while the third group consists of people most exposed to the virus.

“The National Committee gave a positive opinion first for the immunocompromised,” she said, noting that older people at care units and people over the age of 60 are next in line. She also stressed that “the increased risk in people over 60 is reflected in epidemiological data.” More specifically, “the percentage age distribution of patients aged 60-79 years in special ICU beds reached 59.02% and 48% respectively in deaths.”

“We see a significant burden at this age,” she said, adding, “The group over 60 has the criteria to show that it needs reinforcement with a third dose.”

With regard to the possibility of administering a booster shot to the general population, she contended that data from relevant studies are expected before decisions are made.