A decision is expected “in the next couple of weeks” over whether there will be a booster shot for the general adult population but there has been no discussion yet amongst the government’s Covid-19 experts.
Israel forged ahead in administering booster shots to those aged over 12 and has since piled pressure on the vaccinated to get their third dose or risk losing out on their ‘green pass’ – similar to Cyprus’ SafePass.
“Israel was facing a difficult time, our epidemiological picture is much better than when they decided to do that (boosters for over 12s),” Petros Karayiannis, professor of microbiology and molecular virology at the Medical School of the University of Nicosia, told the Cyprus Mail on Monday.
Long viewed as the paragon of the Covid-19 vaccination campaign, Israel is now the outlier with Cyprus seemingly in no rush to adopt its policy on boosters.
Earlier this month, the EU joined the United States, Britain and Israel where regulators have approved the use of Pfizer-BioNTech boosters, although there is no consensus among scientists about how broadly they should be rolled out.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) noted, however, that “decisions for boosters will be taken by public health bodies at national level” – meaning that, as it stands, Cyprus’ booster policy will be formed by its local experts.
Notably, the EMA itself said that: “At national level, public health bodies may issue official recommendations on the use of booster doses, 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,” the EMA announcement read.
Asked whether it’s likely that the committee could advise for the general adult population – i.e., not just the elderly or immunosuppressed – to receive a booster shot, Karayiannis said no decision has been taken yet.
“The discussions are only beginning, so I’m not sure which way it’s going to go, we’ve asked for some more epidemiological data and we will make a recommendation in due course – in the next couple of weeks,” he said.
Could one scenario be that boosters are made available to the adult population but are not required?
“We could make a recommendation above a certain age, I don’t think the 18-year-olds would be on the list at this point because most of them were vaccinated just a couple of months ago, so the six months have not yet passed,” he said.
“It’s the older age groups, I would say those in their forties or fifties, but we’ll see what everybody else thinks.”
As to whether Cyprus should expect a big winter surge making a booster shot more likely, Karayiannis said it was very difficult to predict accurately.
“I’m hoping that the vaccination coverage will be robust enough from any onslaught by the virus,” he said.
“We’ve all been thinking that there may be a surge of cases in the winter but not as serious as some people are making out, we can’t be absolutely sure about what’s going to happen – we’re not fortune tellers.”
As regards countries such as Denmark which have lifted most restrictions, the professor said that the Scandinavian nation reached a vaccination rate of 95 per cent – “we are some way from reaching that”.