Factbox-Countries weigh need for COVID-19 booster shots

·6 min read
FILE PHOTO: Booster vaccination program for the general public amid the rise of the Omicron variant in Jakarta

(Reuters) - Many countries are expanding COVID-19 vaccine booster programmes or shortening the gap between shots as governments scramble to shore up protection against the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

Some countries are also already deploying a fourth dose amid concerns of waning protection.

Studies have shown an initial course of COVID-19 vaccines - typically given in two doses - may not be enough to halt infection from Omicron, but a booster shot may help.

The World Health Organization has said in recent months that administering primary doses - rather than boosters - should be the priority, though it has recommended boosters for those with health issues or who received an inactivated vaccine.

Here are some of the options countries and regions are considering:


** Cambodia is administering a fourth dose to priority groups

** Chile is offering a fourth shot to immunocompromised citizens

** Denmark will offer a fourth coronavirus jab to the most vulnerable

** Hungary will offer a fourth shot to everybody after a consultation with a doctor

** Israel is administering fourth doses to people over 60, health workers and immunocompromised patients

** Sweden will start offering a fourth shot for people with a compromised immune system between three and four months after the third shot

** UK government advisers recommended on Jan. 7 against giving a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine for now


The U.S. CDC took a stance more cautious than it had previously on Nov. 30 when it said everyone over 18 should get a booster shot. On Jan. 6 it expanded the recommendation to those between 12 and 17 years old.

Canada has authorised booster shots for people aged 18 years and older, after earlier recommending them to those moderately or severely immunocompromised.


The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on Nov. 24 recommended vaccine boosters for all adults, with priority for those over 40.

The EU's drugs regulator said on Dec. 9 that data supports getting vaccine boosters after three months.

These European countries are offering boosters to adults after they receive a full dose of a vaccine:

** Austria over-18s; Belgium over-18s; Britain accelerated its programme offering jabs to over-18s by end-Dec, third dose after three months; over-16s in England; Bulgaria; Czech Republic; Denmark over-18s; Finland with booster gap narrowed to 3 months; France delivered 33.1 million booster shots as of Jan. 21, has cut the interval to four months from five, its regulator recommended on Dec. 24 administering boosters three months after first course; Germany over-12s, recommends booster after three months; Greece three months after second vaccine shot or positive test, down from six months previously; Hungary; Ireland all adults; Italy all adults 4 months after second dose; Lithuania; Malta over-12s; Netherlands with a booster gap of three months; Norway; Poland; Portugal all over-45s, over-30s vaccinated with Janssen; Romania has approved Pfizer or Moderna boosters; Russia; Serbia; Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain 5 months after second dose; Sweden over-18s five months after last dose, 12-17-year-olds after six months; Switzerland over-16s with an mRNA vaccine from four months after the primary vaccination course; Ukraine Pfizer or Moderna boosters


A few African countries are offering boosters amid the continent's low inoculation rates - only 7.5% of Africa's population are fully vaccinated, according to WHO.

These African countries are offering boosters to adults after they receive a full dose of a vaccine:

** Egypt on Dec. 16 approved boosters for those who received their second shot at least 6 months ago. It had earlier approved boosters for the most vulnerable groups.

** Kenya will offer booster shots six months after the initial shot.

** Morocco, which has administered the most doses in Africa, started giving a third dose in October.

** Nigeria started to offer booster shots on Dec. 10.

** South Africa started offering booster shots of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine on Dec. 24.

** Senegal has authorised booster dose for adults, initially aimed at the most ill and vulnerable.

** Tunisia offers boosters five months after second dose.

** Zambia started booster jabs on Dec. 27 for over-18s, prioritising health workers and later those with health conditions that made them vulnerable.


** Bangladesh began administering boosters to frontline workers.

** India started giving booster doses to healthcare and frontline workers as well as vulnerable elderly from Jan. 10.

** Thailand will give fourth dose to medical personnel, frontline workers and risk groups three months after their third shots.

These countries are offering boosters to adults after they receive a full dose:

** Bahrain Sputnik V to all over-18s at least 6 months after second dose; Cambodia AstraZeneca; China over-18s; Hong Kong; Indonesia general public 6 months after second dose, with priority for the elderly and immunocompromised; Israel all over-12s; Japan over-18s, from March 6-7 months after second dose vs. 8 months previously; Kuwait will require booster shots from all its citizens and incoming travellers who are fully vaccinated 9 months earlier; Malaysia over-18s, mandatory for over-60s, those vaccinated with Sinovac, and high-risk groups; Philippines halved to three months the waiting time for a booster; Singapore booster gap reduced to 5 months; South Korea reduced the booster gap for all adults to three months; Taiwan booster gap reduced to 5 months; Thailand all adults offered second dose after 3 months; Turkey; UAE over-16s, mandatory for people inoculated with Sinopharm vaccine

These countries are offering boosters to people with weak immune systems, the elderly or vulnerable:

** Bangladesh over-50s; Bhutan over-65s as well as priority groups such as health workers, sufferers from chronic medical problems among others; Japan started administering boosters to health care workers in early December, will from March offer shots to elderly after 6 months from last dose; Nepal offers boosters to frontline workers, will extend to all over-60s from Jan. 24

AUSTRALIA began administering Pfizer COVID booster shots in November to fully vaccinated adults. It cut the interval for booster shots to four from five months from Jan. 4 and plans to reduce it to three months by end-January.


These countries are offering boosters to adults after they receive a full dose:

** Brazil; Colombia 4 months after second dose vs. 6 previously; Chile first booster dose to all adults; Cuba; Honduras; Panama cut the rollout time for boosters to three months for over-16s; Uruguay offers a Pfizer dose for those fully vaccinated

These countries are offering boosters to elderly, vulnerable and at-risk and immunosuppressed people:

** Brazil; Dominican Republic; Ecuador over-50s five months after second dose; El Salvador elderly, health workers, people with underlying health conditions;

** Mexico plans to administer booster doses soon, beginning with people over 60 and teachers

(Compiled by Dagmarah Mackos, Anna Pruchnicka; editing by Jason Neely, Milla Nissi and Susan Fenton)

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