Healthcare workers and employees of orphanages are now eligible for a third booster vaccine dose against Covid-19, according to a press release published by the Ministry of Health on Dec. 22.
People in these lines of work can receive their third shot if six months have elapsed since they got their second dose.
They will receive a shot of either Moderna or Comirnaty/Pfizer mRNA, regardless of which vaccine they originally got. Ukraine will start generating booster dose certificates soon, the ministry said.
Ukrainians with weak immune systems have been eligible to get the third vaccine dose since Dec. 13. They are allowed to get another shot 28 days after receiving the second one. However, their vaccination certificate isn't renewed. Ukraine has administered 586 booster doses so far.
Many countries in Europe have begun encouraging their citizens to receive a booster shot, since the vaccine's protection against Covid-19 and the ability to prevent infection with variants may decrease over time.
After a highly transmissible new strain of Covid-19, Omicron, was detected in November, the governments' rush to administer third doses has increased.
On Dec. 18, Ukraine reported its first case of the Omicron variant. There are fears that the new strain will quickly become dominant in Ukraine, leading to a surge of infection and hospitalizations.
According to multiple early studies, the new variant produces milder symptoms than the recent Delta variant, but it's known to spread quickly and resist vaccines.
The health ministry has highlighted the advice of the World Health Organization, which states that, due to a global shortage in vaccines, booster jabs should only be administered to vulnerable groups.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been more than 3.6 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 infection in Ukraine.
As of Dec. 23, Ukraine has fully vaccinated 13.2 million people, or 35% of its population.
The low vaccination rates stem in part from the high levels of vaccine skepticism in the country. According to a UNICEF study published on Nov. 5, around 54.6% of unvaccinated Ukrainians said they would refuse the jab.