WHO updates COVID-19 vaccination guidance to adapt to Omicron, other variants

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 29) — The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday updated its recommendation on COVID-19 vaccination, encouraging citizens in high-risk populated areas to get an additional dose a year after their last booster.

According to the WHO, its Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) “revised the roadmap for prioritizing the use of COVID-19 vaccines, to reflect the impact of Omicron and high population-level immunity due to infection and vaccination.”

“Updated to reflect that much of the population is either vaccinated or previously infected with COVID-19, or both, the revised roadmap reemphasizes the importance of vaccinating those still at risk of severe disease, mostly older adults and those with underlying conditions, including with additional boosters,” SAGE Chair Dr. Hanna Nohynek said.

WHO said the high-priority group includes older adults, younger adults with significant comorbidities, people with immunocompromising conditions including children aged 6 months and older, pregnant individuals, and frontline health workers.

For the high-priority group, the agency recommends an additional dose of the vaccine at least six to 12 months after the latest dose, based on factors such as age and immunocompromising conditions.

Meanwhile, WHO defined “low priority group” members as healthy children and adolescents. The agency also recommended countries to study factors like disease burden before encouraging doses for the group.

The agency also no longer routinely recommends additional boosters, aside from the initial series of two shots and one booster, for individuals included in the medium-risk group – healthy adults commonly under the age of 50 to 60 without comorbidities and children and adolescents with comorbidities.

Apart from the change in suggested doses, SAGE updated the recommendations on bivalent COVID-19 vaccines. The agency now recommends countries consider using BA.5 bivalent mRNA vaccine for the primary series of doses.