The World Health Organization has tailored its COVID-19 vaccination recommendations for a new phase of the pandemic.
They suggested that healthy children and adolescents may not necessarily need a shot but older, high-risk groups should get a booster between 6 to 12 months after their last vaccine.
The U.N. agency said the aim was to focus efforts on vaccinating those facing the greatest threat of severe disease and death from COVID-19, considering the high-level population immunity worldwide due to widespread infection and vaccination.
The health agency defined high-risk populations as older adults, as well as younger people with other significant risk factors. For this group, the agency recommends an additional shot of the vaccine either 6 or 12 months after the latest dose, based on factors such as age and immunocompromising conditions.
Meanwhile, it said healthy children and adolescents were “low priority” for COVID-19 vaccination, and urged countries to consider factors like disease burden before recommending the vaccination of this group. It said the COVID-19 vaccines and boosters were safe for all ages, but the recommendations took into account other factors like cost-effectiveness.
The WHO said in September last year that the end of the pandemic was “in sight”. In a briefing on Tuesday, the agency said its latest advice reflected the current disease picture and global immunity levels, but should not be seen as long-term guidance over whether annual boosters would be needed.
The recommendations come as countries take differing approaches. Some high-income countries like the United Kingdom and Canada are already offering those at high-risk COVID-19 boosters this spring, six months after their last dose.
The committee also called for urgent efforts to catch up. on routine vaccinations missed during the pandemic and warned of a rise in vaccine-preventable diseases like measles.
For COVID, it said that vaccines beyond the initial two shots and a booster were no longer routinely recommended for those at “medium risk” as benefits were marginal.