France’s national health body has backed plans for coronavirus vaccine booster jabs for people aged 65 and older.
Health minister Olivier Véran announced the booster jab campaign on BFM TV on Monday, but he said he was awaiting confirmation from the health body.
On Tuesday, the Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) recommended the plans, saying in a statement: “After analysing the available data, the HAS proposes a booster dose with an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna, editor's note) for people aged 65 and over, as well as for people with comorbidities that increase the risk of severe forms of COVID-19.”
Véran stated that the booster campaign could begin in September, and that there would need to be six months between the second and third jabs.
The idea of giving booster jabs to people who are already vaccinated against COVID-19 is a controversial one, with much of the world still yet to make a real start on their vaccination campaigns.
WHO slams booster jab plans in rich countries
The World Health Organisation (WHO) last week denounced the rush by rich countries to organise a third dose, pointing out that the data did not show the need for a booster now.
"We clearly believe that the current data does not indicate that boosters are necessary," WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan told a news conference.
From a "moral and ethical" point of view, she said it was also wrong for rich countries to inject the third dose "when the rest of the world is waiting for its first injection".
Israel has already launched a campaign for a third dose of the vaccine, for older people, despite the WHO's call for a moratorium on the practice.
Injecting a third dose now is like "handing out extra life jackets to people who already have one, while we let other people drown without any life jackets at all," WHO emergency director Mike Ryan argued at the press conference on Wednesday.
The French health ministry had already confirmed on 12 August a booster campaign would be rolled out for some 5 million people, such as those older than 80 or immunosuppressed patients.
It then "referred the matter to the HAS on 18 August 2021 on the advisability of extending this recall campaign to other populations", the authority said in its statement.
HAS added in its statement "the priority for the next few weeks is to do everything possible to increase vaccination coverage, particularly in the over-80s age group for which full vaccination coverage remains insufficient (79.9%)".
The authority proposes to "simplify the vaccination process" for the people concerned "by administering the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time" from the end of October.
The HAS also recommends a booster dose with an mRNA vaccine for people who have had the Janssen single dose vaccine and recommends this booster "from 4 weeks after the first injection".