Austria’s National Vaccination Committee (NIG) has recommended a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, but only for those deemed at risk of serious illness.
The NIG identifies risk groups as people over the age of 80 and those between the ages of 65 and 79 with a weakened immune system or existing health conditions.
The official recommendation for people over the age of 80 is to receive the fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine between four and six months after the third shot, or second booster. The same advice applies to people aged 65 to 79 but only after consultation with a doctor.
Recommendations by the NIG are not legally binding in Austria but are usually adopted by the federal government.
According to the NIG, a fourth dose for the general population is not yet recommended but people should not be denied access if they request it (also known as “off label”). It is also expected that a general recommendation for the fourth dose for all age groups could be issued before autumn 2022, reports ORF.
In the case of severely immunocompromised people, such as transplant patients or those undergoing chemotherapy, the NIG advises they should be treated according to their needs. This includes the use of monoclonal antibodies as a preventative treatment, if needed.
The advice from the NIG follows recent advice issued by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) which only recommends the fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine for people over the age of 80.
In Vienna, the health authority had already approved the use of the fourth dose, where the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccinations will be offered to eligible residents.
What happens with the Green Pass?
Following the recommendation by the NIG, it is now expected that the Austrian Federal Government will announce changes to the Green Pass.
Der Standard reports that the validity of the Green Pass could be extended to one year. Currently, the vaccination certificate for the third dose is valid for nine months but the certificate for two doses is only valid for six months. A certificate of recovery from Covid-19 is also only valid for six months.
Tens of thousands of Green Pass certificates are scheduled to expire in the coming months but Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) recently said the government was working on a solution.