Vulnerable people and those over the age of 60 should get a second booster dose of the vaccine against COVID-19, European health agencies advised on Monday, warning that a new wave is "ramping up."
People over the age of 80, healthcare workers and staff at long-term care facilities who fulfil vulnerability or age criteria are already eligible for a second booster dose but the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and European Medicines Agency (EMA) called in a joint statement on Monday for the measure to be extended to vulnerable people and people over the age of 60.
"People over the age of 60 years and medically vulnerable populations remain at the greatest risk of severe disease. Mathematical modelling suggests clear benefits of an early second booster roll-out for protecting people over the age of 60 years," the two agencies said.
"Countries should consider a rapid deployment of second booster doses with currently available vaccines. These could be administered at least four months after the previous one, with a focus on people who received a previous booster more than 6 months ago," they added.
They underlined that at the moment, "there is no clear epidemiological evidence to support administrating a second booster dose in immunocompetent individuals below 60 years of age unless they have medical vulnerabilities."
It comes as Europe faces increasing rates of hospital and intensive care unit admissions amid a new wave of COVID-19.
"These data signal that a new COVID-19 wave is ramping up across the European Union/European Economic Area," the statement reads.
In the week ending July 3, the 14-day case notification rate for the EU/EEA stood at 921.2 per 100,000, a sharp increase from the 715 rate observed the week before.
The number of cases among people aged 65 years registered its fifth weekly increase in a row, growing by 32% from the previous week. The ECDC noted then that the increased transmission among older age groups "is starting to translate into increased rates of severe disease."
European countries lead the table for new weekly cases, **according to Worldometers**with nearly 688,000 new infections recorded in the last seven days in France. More than 670,000 and 630,000 were registered in Italy and Germany respectively.
The latest recommendation from the ECDC and EMA is primarily in anticipation of "the next expected wave in the autumn and winter seasons", the two agencies said.
About 3.2% of the population in the 31 countries making up the EU/EEA have received a second booster dose according to the ECDC Vaccine tracker.