Portugal: Extra Booster dose of Covid vaccine for immunosuppressed

Portugal’s Directorate-General for Health (DGS) on Friday recommended the administration of a booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to people previously vaccinated with a third dose due to severe immunosuppression.

“The DGS recommends vaccination with booster doses in people with severe immunosuppression who received an additional dose to complete the primary vaccination scheme, with the aim of increasing the protection of this population against Covid-19,” said the DGS, which is Portugal’s national health authority, in a statement.

Vaccination with the additional dose had previously been recommended for people with immunosuppression, in order to “enable an adequate level of protection identical to the initial vaccination scheme in the general population,” according to the DGS at the time. On 1 September 2021, it recommended an additional dose of vaccine for immunosuppressed people aged over 16, with its head, Graça Freitas, saying that this was “a new vaccination opportunity” for this specific group.

“This is not a booster,” she told Lusa at the time. “It is an additional dose of vaccine, because it may have happened that, at the time these people were vaccinated, their immune system was not able to react to the vaccine.”

People who were vaccinated during a period of severe immunosuppression were eligible for the additional dose, namely those who had undergone solid organ transplants, people with HIV infection with T-CD4+ lymphocyte count <200/µL, cancer patients and people with some autoimmune diseases who had undergone treatment.

Weeks later, the administration of the booster dose of the vaccine began to people in the general population aged 65 and over, with the DGS giving priority to people aged 80 and over and users of nursing homes and the long-term care network.

According to DGS data from Wednesday, a total of 5.7 million people had received the booster dose, which is currently recommended for everyone aged 18 and over, including pregnant women.

In its statement on Friday, the DGS stresses that “vaccination in pregnant women is a priority, due to the increased risk of complications related to Covid-19 in this group.”

In Portugal, since March 2020 a total of 20,708 people have died and 3,148,387 cases of infection have been counted, according to the latest update from the DGS.

Worldwide, Covid-19 has caused at least 5,848,104 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the latest tally from Agence France-Presse.

The respiratory disease is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, detected in late 2019 in Wuhan, a city in central China.

The Omicron variant, which spreads and mutates rapidly, has become dominant in the world since it was first detected in November in South Africa.