The leadership of the European Commission is currently discussing with scientists how long a third dose is effective in protecting against COVID-19, EURACTIV.com has learnt. Italy mulls shortening COVID pass validity while Greece considers a similar step even without a joint EU decision.
Meanwhile, rumours of a fourth dose are circulating if high rates of unvaccinated citizens persist.
EURACTIV was informed that Brussels has been discussing how long third doses of COVID-19 vaccines will remain effective.
Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Czechia, Greece, Serbia, and others, have already started offering citizens the third dose. This has mainly been prioritised for the elderly and those with underlying health issues.
At the moment, Italy is in the middle of a fourth COVID wave, and cases are rising sharply. Compared to last week, there is a 26.3% increase in new cases, an 18.9% increase in deaths, and a 15.6% rise in patients in intensive care.
For this reason, the government is considering reviewing the validity period of COVID passes from 12 to nine or six months. On Sunday (14 November), the national health institute said that vaccine effectiveness sharply decreases after six months from the end of the vaccine cycle.
According to the Institute, vaccine efficacy before and after six months from the date of administration “falls by 25.5%, from 75.5% to 50.2% for infections; for severe disease leading to hospitalisation or intensive care it only falls by 9.7% (from 91.8% to 82.1%).”
As previously reported in The Capitals, Italy is boosting its vaccination campaign to contain the infection. Third doses will be available for those in the 40-60 age group from 1 December, said Health Minister Roberto Speranza last Wednesday. The government will wait two weeks before making any decisions, depending on third dose vaccination campaign data.
France has already made such a decision for those over 65.
Greece has similar thoughts and vows to move on even without a consensus at the EU level. According to the relevant EU regulation, the COVID-19 pass duration is for 12 months.
Italy questions rapid tests’ validity
Rome is also the possibility of removing rapid antigen COVID-19 tests as an eligibility criterion to issue certificates.
There are also doubts about the reliability of rapid antigen tests. According to experts, the percentage of false negatives might have a dangerous impact on the test and tracking mechanism.
A fourth dose?
Meanwhile, in Greece, a discussion over the need for a fourth dose has started.
Secretary-General of Primary Care of the Ministry of Health Marios Themistokleous commented that “logically it will not be needed”, as scientific data up to date suggest that with a third dose, one gains a permanent degree of immunity.
“It has not been clarified, but logically so far, it won’t probably be needed,” he told Skai TV.
An EU source said that currently, there were no talks for the fourth dose in Brussels, but everything will depend on the effectiveness of the third dose.
“No one rules out anything as long as the unvaccinated do not decide to get vaccinated,” the source added.
(Sarantis Michalopoulos, EURACTIV.com, Eleonora Vasques | EURACTIV.it)