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The immunoprophylaxis expert committee updated the recommendations for using the COVID-19 vaccines

COVID-19 vaktsineerimine

The state immunoprophylaxis expert committe that gathered today, on March 10, recommends using the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on all adults, without the previous recommended age limitations. Additionally, the expert committee recommended extending the interval between the first and the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine from 8 weeks to 12 weeks, and the interval between the doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to six weeks, in order to increase the total number of people receiving their first vaccine dose within the coming months.

„The expert committee estimates that there is a sufficient number of study results by now that confirm AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine’s very high effectiveness in preventing severe progression of the disease among the elderly as well. Finland concurrently also reached the same decision today. The new recommendation is to use this vaccine on all adults regardless of their age,“ explained the Deputy Secretary General on Health at the Ministry of Social Affairs, the head of the state immunoprophylaxis expert committee, Maris Jesse.

Additionally, the expert committee recommended extending the interval between the two doses of both the AstraZeneca and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to the maximum period allowed in the summaries of the properties of the vaccines, in order to provide more people with the protection given by the first vaccine dose. „Extending the interval between the two doses is relevant to those who will be vaccinated from next week onwards. All people who have already arranged the time of receiving their second dose will be guaranteed a second dose in three or eight weeks according to the previously valid procedure,“ Maris Jesse added.

The summary of the properties of the AstraZeneca vaccine prescribes that the interval between the two shots should remain between 4 and 12 weeks. In Estonia, the state immunoprophylaxis expert committee recommended on February 3 that the period between administering the two doses should be 8 weeks. Going forward, the interval will be lengthened to 12 weeks. The initial summary of the properties of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine prescribed 21-42 days as the period between the two doses. The current recommendation of the experts is to lengthen the interval between the two doses from the previous 21 days to 42 days.

Based on the renewed recommendations of the immunoprophylaxis expert committee, the steering group of the COVID-19 vaccinations will give more precise instructions to the vaccinators this week. In the case of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, the recommendation of the expert committee allows to direct all of the currently known more than 100,00 doses arriving in Estonia in April to providing first shots. In the case of AstraZeneca, the exact volumes of vaccines arriving in April are currently not yet known.

Among other things, the state immunoprophylaxis expert committee recommends that people who have had COVID-19 be administered one dose of the vaccine one week to six months after recovery. „As COVID-19 could progress very differently in different patients, the protection from reinfection provided by going through the disease might not be equal to vaccination. Still, considering the limited volumes of vaccines available, the recommendation is to start vaccinations mainly for those who have not had the disease yet,“ explained family doctor Dr. Marje Oona, member of the state immunoprophylaxis expert committee.

The objectives of the COVID-19 vaccination are to protect risk groups for whom the COVID-19 disease might progress more severely if they get infected, prevent and reduce the infections and deaths caused by COVID-19, reduce the burden on the healthcare system and the economy, and ensure the normal functioning of the society.

The state immunoprophylaxis expert committee is a committee advising the Ministry of Social Affairs on the national immunisation plan and other issues related to vaccinations, comprised of representatives of immunologists, allergists, infectionists, family doctors, paediatricians, nurses, the Health Board, the State Agency of Medicines, the Health Insurance Board, and the Ministry of Social Affairs.

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