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Coronavirus: Cabinet approves booster jab (updated)

Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas

The cabinet on Thursday decided to start administering a third Covid vaccine dose to vulnerable groups and health professionals.

Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas said third doses will be given to people over 65, those living in care homes, the immunosuppressed of all ages, and health professionals, provided it has been at least six months since their second jabs.

Details of the programme will be announced at a later stage.

The cabinet also decided that university classes will operate at two-thirds of their capacity, and everyone would have to present a Safe Pass.

The minister said these were the minimum requirements and universities, as independent entities, could implement stricter measures if they wanted.

It also extended existing health and safety measures to September 22.

“After two months in the red, the numbers show we are on the right path to stop the gallop of the deadly virus and its mutations,” the minister said. “The situation in public hospitals is very good and hospitalisations are falling continuously.”

Hadjipantelas said safeguarding the health system and the unhindered provision of quality care “is not negotiable.”

He said relaxing personal protection measures caused an increase of infections and hospitalisations.

“Any signs of complacency will be catastrophic. It is therefore necessary to complete the immunity wall,” he added.

The decision followed a statement by the European Medicines Agency that additional doses should already be considered for people with severely weakened immune systems as part of their primary vaccination.

EMA said based on current evidence, there was no urgent need for the administration of booster doses of vaccines to fully vaccinated individuals in the general population.

It was important to distinguish between booster doses for people with normal immune systems and additional doses for those with weakened immune systems, it added.

Some studies reported that an additional vaccine dose can improve the immune response in immunocompromised individuals, such as organ transplant recipients whose initial responses to vaccination were low.

Consideration could also be given to providing an additional dose, as a precautionary measure, to older frail individuals, in particular those living in closed settings such as residents of long-term care facilities.

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