Luxembourgh Times

Luxembourg rolls out Covid-19 booster shots to all adults

Decision comes as infection rates, hospital admissions and deaths from the virus soar across Europe

Health Minister Paulette Lenert and Prime Minister Xavier Bettel address Friday's press conference

Health Minister Paulette Lenert and Prime Minister Xavier Bettel address Friday's press conference © Photo credit: Guy Jallay

Luxembourg will roll out Covid-19 booster shots to all adults six months after their second vaccine dose, the government announced on Friday, as the country continues to experience infection rates and hospitalisation levels not seen since March.

Apart from those who have already received a booster following the one-shot Johnson&Johnson regime, everyone over the age of 18 will be able to take an additional, voluntary jab six months after their second dose, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Health Minister Paulette Lenert announced at a press conference.

The government had decided to intervene now and roll out the booster shot at this stage, Bettel said, as a result of waning immunity levels amongst older people and those who received their last jab earlier in the year. The government, on the advice of its advisory body, recommends the additional jab, but it remains voluntary. The first 40,000 invitations for the jab will be sent out on Monday, the prime minister added.

Israel - an early leader amongst the world's countries in the race to get populations vaccinated - also battled a wave of the disease in the summer, but managed to curb new infections by rolling out booster shots to the wider population, Bettel said. The announcement by Luxembourg came just hours after Austria decided to go into another lockdown from next Monday, reacting to a case load that is four times larger than Luxembourg's per capita, according to statistics from Our World in Data.

Vienna has also decided to make Covid-19 jabs mandatory as of February. Luxembourg is still ruling this out, Lenert said, adding that "[the government's] arsenal of available options is not exhausted yet".

However, the government cannot rule out new restrictions when the current Covid law expires on 18 December, Bettel said. It is possible that the government might even take new measures before that date, according to the prime minister. Given the current Covid-19 situation in Europe, Luxembourg was right not to have declared a "freedom day" from the disease - when all restrictions are dropped - as the UK and Denmark did, Bettel said.

It is the second time in just 10 days that Luxembourg is tweaking its policy on boosters shots after the government followed the advice of its chief advisory body one week ago to give boosters to healthcare staff and everyone over the age of 65. Before that, additional shots were only given to those with a weak immune system and those over the age of 75.

Yet just two-thirds of people who were eligible for a booster have so far got one, Lenert said on Friday, while only one in two of those who had received the one-shot Johnson&Johnson vaccine have had a booster.

The decision to now significantly increase the share of the population who can receive better protection from the disease comes as Luxembourg - and the rest of Europe - is in the midst of another wave of the pandemic that has caused new infections, hospitalisations and deaths to shoot up, even amongst highly vaccinated countries.

Last week, the majority of those in regular and intensive care in Luxembourg hospitals were not fully vaccinated, data from the health ministry revealed on Thursday. Authorities also registered eight new deaths in that period, with those succumbing to the virus having an average age of 79, the ministry said.

Unvaccinated people are two and a half times more likely to catch the disease, according to the data, and also risk suffering from more severe illness.