Cyprus Mail

Coronavirus: Ministry ready for third jab, no tightening of measures (updated)


The health ministry is ready to administer booster shots should the cabinet give it the go ahead, with the health minister adding that further restrictions are not currently on the table.

Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas ruled out a loosening of the restrictions, saying “it is a bit difficult to relax the measures,” but he added that “no one can foresee what will happen in the next two to three months” – hinting that stricter measures in the future are a possibility.

He offered that Cyprus has now passed through the height of the “fourth wave” but cautioned that should a “fifth wave” hit the island then the appropriate measures will have to be taken.

Asked what would happen to the vaccinated in a possible future lockdown, the health minister said that: “We will look at everything once the time comes, at the moment, for the next month this (a lockdown) isn’t on the horizon.”

As for the possibility of a third dose (a second dose for J&J recipients), Hadjipantelas told CNA on Thursday that he has asked his advisors to set out their case in writing by Friday. This week, many of the advisors publicly called for Cyprus to proceed with booster shots.

The health minister also asked for the advisors to state in writing their stance on the “mix and match” scenario – people receiving vaccines from companies other than those with which they were initially vaccinated, and potentially with different technology (mRNA for example).

The issue has proved tricky however, as Cyprus typically follows EMA (European Medical Agency) guidelines, and the organisation has so far not decided on whether nations should proceed with booster shots.

The cabinet is now mulling whether to wait for the greenlight from the EMA or not.

For its part, the EMA has repeatedly said that more data is needed before it can approve the use of boosters. Notably, the European Commission on Thursday emphasised that countries which decide to proceed with boosters without EMA approval may face increased legal risks.

A further complication has arisen as the WHO (World Health Organisation) repeated its call on Monday for nations to hold off on booster shots.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that priority should be given to raising vaccination rates in countries where only one or two per cent of the population has been inoculated – as is the case in many African nations.

He also warned of the possible emergence of stronger variants if vaccination rates are not raised globally.

“In addition, there is a debate about whether booster shots are effective at all,” Ghebreyesus said on Monday.

Pfizer, meanwhile, is currently seeking US regulatory approval for a third injection.

The debate over booster shots has gained prominence in recent months following a dramatic rise in people testing positive in countries such as highly vaccinated Israel, causing concern over “breakthrough” infections.

This week researchers in Britain said that protection against Covid-19 offered by two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines begins to fade within six months.

After five to six months, the effectiveness of the Pfizer jab at preventing Covid-19 infection in the month after the second dose fell from 88 per cent to 74 per cent, an analysis of data collected in Britain’s ZOE Covid study showed.

For the AstraZeneca vaccine, effectiveness fell from 77 per cent to 67 per cent after four to five months.



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