“No need for 4th dose of Covid vaccine”

Experts “guarantee”, says Expresso, “for the time being…”

In what Expresso presents as an exclusive this morning, the paper’s online proclaims “Covid-19: DGS specialists guarantee there is no necessity for a 4th dose of vaccine (just yet)”.

It’s a great headline – yet it ‘kind of says nothing at all’… particularly as the very next paragraph adds: “But even so all options continue under evaluation. According to the specialists, a significant loss in immunity or the appearance of a variant capable of evading immune defences are alterations that could justify the administration of more doses of vaccine…”

In other words, “until proof to the contrary, Portugal will not be advancing with the administration of a fourth dose against Covid-19 for the general population, nor for the more elderly”.

For the time being, any ‘boosters’ (second boosters/ 4th shots) will be limited to those with “serious immunosuppression, in line with the DGS recommendation since the middle of February”.

Specialists of the Vaccine Technical Commission against Covid-19 “guarantee” that at this moment “there is no element in the epidemiological situation of the country that justifies an alteration of the strategy defined and in place. In other words, there is no demonstrated benefit in taking a 4th dose”, says the paper – then going on with the paragraph about “all options continuing to be under evaluation”.

The niggle to all this “guaranteeing” comes in two forms: one, a recent German study which explains how “The proportion of boosted patients in the intensive care units is increasing rapidly” (the link switches the text to English); and second in news coming out of France, which has this week approved a 4th dose for the over-80s who received their booster shots more than three months ago (and are now consequently showing a fall in immunity).

But there is hope too: Expresso stresses that a recent study by researchers at the Centro Hospitalar do Médio Tejo has actually concluded that ‘reduction of antibodies, even to the point of zero’ can be meaningless.

Cellular immunity remains high, the study insists, and “will be able to trigger the immediate production of new defences in the face of new exposure to the virus”.

In other words, the ‘increasing number of boosted patients in intensive care units in Germany’ may not be there because they do not have immunity to SARS-CoV-2; it may be much more a case of patients’ age/ comorbidities.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com