France’s regulatory health authority has recommended that people aged over 65 or at particular risk of developing serious forms of Covid receive an additional booster vaccination dose this coming autumn.
Essentially, this would mean a fifth dose for those who took up the second booster, which was offered to over-60s, care home residents and immunosuppressed patients in France earlier this spring.
The Haute autorité de santé (HAS) said that over-65s, people with certain health conditions, immunosuppressed patients and their families should be offered the extra vaccination in a statement published today (May 25).
In addition, it advised the government to plan for a further booster for healthcare professionals, if data suggests that it would prevent them from catching and transmitting asymptomatic forms of Covid.
“Even if current data appears to show that the epidemic is stabilising in France, it is highly likely that virus circulation will reintensify periodically,” it stated.
“It is essential to construct, from now, a vaccination strategy which is ready to be deployed in the months to come.”
Seeing as the second booster has always been optional for eligible groups, it is highly likely that this would be too.
Three vaccination strategies outlined
HAS has outlined three vaccination strategies to fit with an optimistic, probable and pessimistic evolution of the Covid virus in France. It will implement the strategy relating to the most probable for now.
In this scenario, “virus circulation, although still active, is lessened by lasting and sufficient immunity, enabling [us] to limit the incidence of serious illness and death. Infection rates and the number of serious cases are disconnected, leading to epidemic waves which are less and less serious.
“Periodic peaks in transmission could occur because of a rise in the proportion of people whose immunity has lessened [over time], making the occasional administration of a booster vaccine dose necessary for people more at risk from serious forms.”
This prediction could change if new variants of concern emerge or if new, more lasting vaccines or more effective treatments are found.
HAS recommends that additional booster doses be given at the same time as flu jabs.
Finally, it stated that it is “remaining vigilant” with regards to the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of Omicron, which are highly transmissible and currently spreading rapidly in South Africa.
It added, however, that the “existing data, although still limited” did not suggest that these strains were more severe.
It is now up to the French government to follow – or not – HAS’ advice and to decide the practicalities of the vaccination campaign.