Italy and Germany will administer just a single coronavirus vaccine dose to people who have been infected with COVID-19 up to six months beforehand, as governments scramble to save shots and speed up a stuttering EU inoculation rollout. The Italian health ministry recommendation applies to people who fell ill or who were diagnosed as infected but had no symptoms between three and six months earlier.
In its recommendation, Germany’s vaccine commission said the single dose should be given six months after a person has been diagnosed. They are the latest European Union countries after France and Spain to follow this path at a time when EU nations are struggling to boost their vaccination campaigns due to supply shortages.
Rationing doses like this makes sense and giving a second dose to someone with some level of natural immunity may not be necessary, Charles Bangham, a professor and chair of Immunology at Imperial College London.
“It does make a certain amount of sense, because, their immune system has been primed, and so the vaccine would be acting rather like a booster second dose,” he said. The moves are the latest example of authorities rapidly changing policy as they hurry to inoculate populations.
Separately on Thursday, Germany approved the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine for people aged over 65 to help accelerate the country’s faltering inoculation drive. Just 5.5% of people have received a first vaccine dose in Germany – behind countries like Israel, Britain and the United States.
Italy, which has a population of around 60 million, had administered 4.76 million doses of vaccines as of early Thursday, with some 1.5 million people receiving the recommended two shots. In all, it has received 6.3 million doses from manufacturers, but repeated supply delays have hampered inoculation efforts.
The World Health Organization has said the second dose for people who have been tested positive could be delayed to up to six months of infection if supplies are limited.
Prime Minister Mario Draghi has shaken up Italy’s management of the pandemic since taking office last month, replacing both the special COVID commissioner and the head of the civil protection agency with an eye to speeding up vaccinations. Draghi also suggested at a meeting of EU leaders last week that first shots should be given priority, as they are in Britain.
Britain, which has left the European Union, has managed to vaccinate millions more of its citizens than any EU state, in part because it is using most of the doses at its disposal for initial shots. The EU drug regulator EMA said on Wednesday it had not yet seen enough evidence to recommend changes to the dosage regime for COVID-19 vaccines.