The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has today published three reviews on the duration of immunity following COVID-19 vaccination. It is to inform the work of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC).
HIQA reviewed international evidence assessing the duration of protective immunity following COVID-19 vaccination in the general population and specific subgroups. The initial review examined the duration of protective immunity following COVID-19 vaccination in all populations aged 12 years and older. The first update focused on healthcare workers, while the second update focused on individuals with underlying conditions.
The reviews identified over 50 studies. The risk of breakthrough infection increased over time. Overall the evidence suggests that COVID-19 vaccination continues to provide strong protection against severe disease. This is along with mortality for at least six months post-vaccination. However, some studies suggest that there is waning protection particularly for older adults and in those with immunocompromising conditions. Studies that looked specifically at healthcare workers showed similar high levels of protection against severe disease to that seen in the general population.
Dr Mark O’Loughlin, a Public Health Fellow in HIQA spoke out
He said: “Despite the good protection afforded by vaccination, national and international data indicate a higher risk of severe disease outcomes in older individuals and in those with underlying conditions. Given this and the potential lower vaccine response for these populations, any additional reduction in protection would be of concern.
Public health measures, infection prevalence and vaccination rollout have varied across countries and over time. Additionally, new variants of concern have emerged. It is difficult to determine if reductions in protection are due to waning immunity. Or if its due to differences in exposure, increased transmissibility, vaccine escape from new variants, or a mixture of all.
Dr O’Loughlin continued: “There is some uncertainty regarding protection after six months. Especially in relation to new variants of concern and changing public health measures. We would encourage anyone who has been offered a booster dose, to avail of it and give themselves the best protection possible.”
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