WHO calls for boosters for elderly, vulnerable groups

Representational Picture
Representational PictureWHO

New Delhi: In the wake of another rise in COVID-19 cases in several countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended booster vaccination for the elderly and other vulnerable groups.

The updated recommendation, issued this week, came after a meeting of WHO's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation (SAGE).

It revised the roadmap for prioritising the use of COVID vaccines, to reflect the impact of Omicron and high population-level immunity due to infection and vaccination.

"Updated to reflect that much of the population is either vaccinated or previously infected with COVID, or both, the revised roadmap re-emphasises the importance of vaccinating those still at-risk of severe disease, mostly older adults and those with underlying conditions, including with additional boosters," said SAGE Chair Dr Hanna Nohynek, in a statement.

The revised roadmap outlines three priority-use groups for Covid vaccination: high, medium, and low.

These priority groups are principally based on risk of severe disease and death, and consider vaccine performance, cost-effectiveness, programmatic factors and community acceptance.

The high priority group includes older adults; younger adults with significant comorbidities (like diabetes and heart disease); people with immunocompromising conditions (like people living with HIV and transplant recipients), including children aged six months and older; pregnant persons; and frontline health workers.

For the high priority group, SAGE recommends an additional booster of either 6 or 12 months after the last dose, with the timeframe depending on factors such as age and immunocompromising conditions.

Importantly, the WHO also said that all the COVID vaccine recommendations are time-limited, and should be applied only for the current epidemiological scenario only.

Thus, the recommendations for "the additional booster should not be seen as for continued annual COVID vaccine boosters," the global health body said.

"Countries should consider their specific context in deciding whether to continue vaccinating low risk groups, like healthy children and adolescents, while not compromising the routine vaccines that are so crucial for the health and well-being of this age group," Nohynek said.

Meanwhile, India on Saturday logged 2994 new Covid infections, and the number of active cases increased to 16,354, according to Union health ministry data.

The death toll climbed to 5,30,876 with nine deaths – two each from Delhi, Karnataka and Punjab; one from Gujarat; and two were reconciled by Kerala.

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