EU medicines agency approves Covid-19 booster vaccine for all adults

The European Medicines Agency has given its approval for a third Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for all adults in order to increase immunity levels, paving the way for booster jabs to be rolled out across the EU.

A nurse administer a booster shot of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine
A nurse administer a booster shot of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. Photo by JUSTIN SULLIVAN / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

The EMA announced on Monday that its human medicines committee (CHMP) has concluded that an extra dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty (BioNTech/Pfizer) may be given to all over-18s. It is studying data to see whether a third Moderna jab could also be administered as a booster vaccine.

The extra jab could be given a least six months after the individual received their second dose of the vaccine.

“The CHMP has evaluated data for Comirnaty showing a rise in antibody levels when a booster dose is given approximately 6 months after the second dose in people from 18 to 55 years old,” read the EMA statement.

“On the basis of this data, the Committee concluded that booster doses may be considered at least 6 months after the second dose for people aged 18 years and older.”

It also concluded that an extra dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may be given to people with severely weakened immune systems, at least 28 days after their second dose.

Each country in the EU and has implemented its own policy towards Covid-19 vaccines and the goes for booster shots. Certain countries have already began booster campaigns for elderly residents with weakened immune systems.

“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 EMA said.

“The implementation of vaccination campaigns in the EU remains the prerogative of the national immunisation technical advisory groups (NITAGs) guiding the vaccination campaigns in each EU Member State.

“These bodies are best placed to take into account the local conditions, including the spread of the virus (especially any variants of concern), the availability of vaccines and the capacities of national health systems.”

The EMA said there was no know side effects following a booster jab.

“The risk of inflammatory heart conditions or other very rare side effects after a booster is not known and is being carefully monitored. As for all medicines, EMA will continue to look at all data on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine,” the regulator added.

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Can you get a covid vaccine in Denmark if you’re not in the at-risk groups?

If you’re not in one of the ‘high risk’ categories, a covid booster can be hard to come by in Denmark.

Can you get a covid vaccine in Denmark if you’re not in the at-risk groups?

A growing body of research indicates that keeping your covid vaccination up to date decreases your risk of long covid—a range of cardiovascular, neurological and respiratory symptoms that can be debilitating. But accessing the vaccine booster is not straightforward in Denmark if you are not within one of the ‘risk groups’ for the national annual booster scheme.

Ahead of winter 2023, the Danish government made a significant change to its covid vaccination policy. From November 2022 until October 2023, anyone who wanted to get vaccinated could do so at the government vaccination centres for a modest fee.

But in October 2023, the Danish government said it was bowing out of the elective booster game, since “vaccines will be sold on the private market under normal market conditions,” the Danish Health Ministry (Sundhedsministeriet) wrote.

READ ALSO: Covid-19 no longer given special status in Denmark

But it seems pharmacies and private clinics didn’t step in to fill the void the way the Danish government expected—although public health websites linked out to the Apotek pharmacy chain as a resource for voluntary covid vaccination, Apotek pharmacy confirmed to the Local Denmark via email that they did not offer paid covid vaccines this year.

As of February 5th, the only option for a voluntary covid booster in the Greater Copenhagen metropolitan area is through Copenhagen Medical, a private clinic in Sankt Annæ Plads near Nyhavn that offers a range of travel vaccines and tests. The Pfizer booster costs 920 kroner.

Other companies offer paid vaccinations, but the closest clinics are at least 30 km away (for instance, the Danske Lægers Vaccinations Service offers paid covid vaccines at their Roskilde and Hillerød locations).

The public covid vaccine campaign ended on January 15th, by when 1.1 million people had received a Covid vaccine during the 2023-2024 season in Denmark, according to the State Serum Institute, Denmark’s infectious disease agency.

SSI told the Local that it is unable to determine how many of those were through the public vaccination programme and how many were paid for at private clinics.