First-generation Covid vaccines still effective against new variants, experts say

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People over 60 and younger adults who belong to risk groups can now book their fourth shot in Helsinki.

A more resistant and transmissible mutation of the omicron variant has led to a spike in cases across Europe. Image: Benjamin Suomela / Yle

Health experts in Finland are encouraging people to get their third and fourth doses of the Covid-19 vaccine as scheduled, rather than waiting for updated vaccines to be introduced.

Vaccine and natural immunity-resistant coronavirus variant BA.5 is sweeping Europe, raising the number of cases and sparking talks about a new generation of vaccines to protect against future variants.

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However, people are not allowed to pass on their booster vaccinations if their last vaccination lasts longer than six months, director of vaccine research center Finvac Mika Ramet say.

Experts: “Get a boost for fall”

“It is very likely that the virus will be found as soon as schools and nurseries resume and people go back to work,” says Rämet, adding that this August will see an increase in the number of cases, further spreading the virus. speed up.

Those who have not contracted the virus since receiving the first doses of the Covid vaccine will likely have weakened immunity by now, according to the Institute of Health and Welfare (THL) lead physician Hanna Nohynek.

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“For example, there are many healthy 60-year-olds whose last booster dose was given six – or even more – months ago,” Nohynek tells Yle, adding that the fourth dose could boost their immunity again.

No major changes in new vaccines

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) could already distribute a new generation of vaccines tailored for the omicron variant as early as September. However, according to Nohynek, information is still missing and authorization processes are slow.

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“At best, the new vaccines can better protect against mild symptoms and weaken the contagiousness of the virus,” says the THL doctor, adding that “the so-called ‘old’ vaccines, which are designed against the virus detected by Wuhan, are still provide protection against serious illness caused by ommicron and that’s important to keep in mind.”

Second boosters are starting to roll out to people over 60 and younger adults who belong to at-risk groups. Helsinki, for example, has started inviting people over the age of 18 into high-risk groups for the jabs.

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