Health experts: third Covid vaccination strongly recommended for high-risk groups

With the number of Covid cases expected to rise in the autumn, the Czech Ministry of Health has recommended inoculating seniors and other high-risk groups of the population with a third dose of a Covid vaccine. Registration for the booster shots could be launched in mid-September.

Presently over 5.6 million people have been fully vaccinated against Covid in the Czech Republic, which is more than 50 percent of the population of 10.7 million.

In addition to that, a study conducted by Masaryk University in Brno concluded that around half of the adult Czech population may already have been infected with the virus and developed antibodies.

However, another study, carried out by the organization Podané ruce, suggests that six months after vaccination, up to 60 percent of Czech seniors have significantly lower or no antibodies.

In view of the accelerated spread of the more contagious Delta variant of Covid expected in the autumn, the Czech Vaccinology Society and other expert medical groups are strongly recommending that all high-risk groups to get a booster shot.

That includes not only seniors, but also people with a weakened immune system, such as cancer patients or those who have had organ or stem cell transplants.

Ilja Stříž is the vice-president of the Czech Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology:

“The elderly are definitely one of the risk groups. Therefore, the strategy everywhere in the world has been to vaccinate this group as soon as possible. This also means that they have the longest time between vaccinations.

“We still have no idea how long the protection against a severe infection will last. It could be a year or possibly longer, but for some individuals, the period could be significantly shorter.”

Jan Pačes | Photo: archive of Jan Pačes

However not all experts agree that the Covid-19 booster shots are a priority right now. Jan Pačes from the Institute of Molecular Genetics of the Academy of Sciences told Czech Radio that the state should rather focus on the unvaccinated:

“Here in the Czech Republic we still have quite a lot of people from the high risk groups who haven’t been vaccinated at all. That is a more pressing problem than administering the third dose.”

According to the plan outlined by Health Minister Adam Vojtěch, seniors and other high-risk people will received one of the mRNA vaccines produced either by Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna. This type of vaccine makes up more than 80 percent of all doses administered in the Czech Republic.

People vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine will receive the mRNA as a third dose, while people vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine will receive it as a second dose.

According to the health ministry’s plan, the third dose should be administered by GPs and at vaccination points in hospitals. People can receive it no sooner than eight months after their last jab.

The Covid-19 re-vaccination is expected to cover about three million people in the Czech Republic and will continue to be voluntary.