Luxembourg wants EU guidance on booster jabs

A Luxembourg vaccination centre Photo: Julien Warnand / SIP

A Luxembourg vaccination centre Photo: Julien Warnand / SIP

Luxembourg said it is monitoring steps by other countries to administer a third coronavirus vaccine dose to vulnerable groups but would like EU guidance on the matter.

Germany this week said it would start giving a third dose of the Pfizer/Biontech or Moderna vaccine--also known as messenger RNA vaccines--to people in risk groups, such as the elderly or persons with a compromised immune system. It will also make an mRNA vaccine shot available to people who received the AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson jabs as these show lower efficacy against the Delta variant of the virus.

The grand duchy is not yet following suit. Health minister Paulette LenertPaulette Lenert (LSAP) on Wednesday said the government is in talks with the Luxembourg infectious diseases council, which helped develop the country’s vaccine strategy.

“Ideally we’re hoping to receive European guidance on this topic,” Lenert told RTL on the sidelines of a visit to a youth mental health clinic on 4 August. “I personally expect these discussions will happen at short-notice, especially for the category of people who built up less immunity.”

The World Health Organization has called for a moratorium on booster shots, asking wealthy nations to help deliver vaccines to poorer countries instead, where many have not yet received even a first virus jab. Low-income countries have only been able to administer 1.5 doses for every 100 people, due to lack of supply, the WHO said, compared to 101 doses per 100 people for high-income countries.

As of Tuesday, 355,891 people are fully vaccinated in Luxembourg, the latest virus report published on Wednesday said. Out of these, 33,136 received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Out of 439 new infections reported between 26 July and 1 August, 366 people were not vaccinated (83.4%) while 73 people (16.6%) were fully vaccinated, the government said in a weekly update, also published on Wednesday. The average age of the infected was 30.8.

High levels of virus in wastewater

The number of reported cases declined for the fourth week in a row, reaching a rate of 69 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Family and friends remained the single biggest source of infections (34.9%), followed by travel (12.6%) and leisure activities (10.4%). In around a third of cases no clear source of infection could be identified.

While the number of cases receded, traces of the virus were highly prevalent in Luxembourg’s wastewater.

“Compared to previous weeks, a significant increase was observed with a level of contamination by Sars-CoV-2 similar to that measured at the beginning of July,” the report said, pointing to a possible increase in the number of cases reported in the coming weeks as positive tests in the past lagged the laboratory analysis.

On Wednesday, Luxembourg reported two deaths linked to the coronavirus, bringing the pandemic death toll to 824. Five people are being treated in intensive care with another 21 patients in hospital for complications caused by a coronavirus infection.

Some 1,014 infections are considered active.

As of this week, a first group of four doctor’s offices is administering vaccinations against the coronavirus. More surgeries are expected to follow later in August as the country’s vaccinations centres are beginning to close down.

A vaccination bus meanwhile will be travelling to events this summer--starting with the e-Lake festival in Echternach this weekend--where people can get vaccinated on site without the need to schedule an appointment. They can receive either the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine--requiring a second appointment at a doctor’s office or vaccination centre--or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson jab.