The European Union's public health agency on Wednesday recommended that COVID-19 vaccine booster shots should be considered for all adults, with priority for those above 40 years as coronavirus infections have begun to surge again.
"Available evidence emerging from Israel and the UK shows a significant increase in protection against infection and severe disease following a booster dose in all age groups,” the ECDC said in a report published on Wednesday.
The European Commission is expected to take the advice on boosters into consideration when proposing changes to the use of COVID-19 certificates later this week, a Reuters report cited officials as saying.
Recommendations issued by the ECDC are not binding on EU governments but are used to make health policy decisions.
"Booster doses should be considered for all adult individuals prioritising persons above 40 years of age," ECDC chief Andrea Ammon said in a recorded statement, noting that boosters should be administered at least six months after completing the primary vaccine schedule.
She said that boosters will increase protection against infections caused by waning immunity and "could potentially reduce the transmission in the population and prevent additional hospitalisations and deaths".
In its previous guidance issued in September the ECDC said there was no urgent need for the administration of booster doses to fully vaccinated individuals in the general population, but suggested that additional doses should be considered for people with weakened immune systems and could be used as a precaution for older frail individuals.
Many EU countries have already begun giving booster doses to their populations. Austria, which has this week gone for a lockdown again amid a spike in cases, has decided to give boosters after four months, whereas in Italy the additional dose can be administered after five months.
Greece has proposed that people should in future only be able to travel freely if they have received a second or third dose in the previous six months and that booster doses should be added to the information shown in EU passes.