Current evidence does not show a need for Covid-19 booster jabs in the general population, according to a new report from a panel of leading scientists.
Researchers analysed studies on vaccine efficacy and said the available data did not provide credible evidence of substantially declining protection against severe disease following inoculation.
The report, which was published in medical journal The Lancet on Monday, was authored by figures including the World Health Organization’s Soumya Swaminathan, Ana-Maria Henao-Restrepo and Mike Ryan.
“Although the benefits of primary Covid-19 vaccination clearly outweigh the risks, there could be risks if boosters are widely introduced too soon, or too frequently,” the scientists said.
“Current evidence does not, therefore, appear to show a need for boosting in the general population, in which efficacy against severe disease remains high,” they continued.
A recent study on the experience in Israel during the first three weeks of August “has suggested efficacy of a third dose”, relative to two doses.
But a very short-term protective effect would not necessarily imply worthwhile long-term benefit, the researchers said.
According to the report, effectiveness against severe disease in Israel was lower among people vaccinated either in January or April than in those vaccinated in February or March, “exemplifying the difficulty of interpreting such data”.
The scientists called for careful and public scrutiny of the evolving research to ensure that decisions about boosting are informed by reliable science rather than by politics.
“Even if boosting were eventually shown to decrease the medium-term risk of serious disease, current vaccine supplies could save more lives if used in previously unvaccinated populations than if used as boosters in vaccinated populations,” the scientists said.