Autumn vaccination campaigns focused on older age groups and other high-risk populations are key to decrease impact of COVID-19


To decrease the impact of COVID-19, and related hospitalisations and mortality, countries should plan for a continued roll-out of COVID vaccines in 2023. Efforts should focus on protecting older adults and other vulnerable groups, such as those with underlying comorbidities and the immunocompromised, irrespective of age.

These considerations are part of ECDC’s latest report on interim public health considerations for COVID-19 vaccination roll-out during 2023.

According to ECDC surveillance data, with every new wave of COVID-19 infection, individuals in older age groups are more likely to be hospitalised. Data suggest persisting SARS-CoV-2 transmission in EU/EEA countries and therefore, a continuous risk of severe disease for vulnerable groups.  

Although no clear seasonal pattern of virus circulation has emerged so far, data show that the disease’s impact has been much higher during the autumn-winter period, corresponding with the traditional influenza season. 

In this context, mathematical models detailed in the report indicate that an autumn 2023 vaccination programme with very high vaccine uptake targeting individuals 60 years of age and older is expected to prevent up to 32 percent of COVID-19-related hospitalizations across the EU/EEA.  

Assuming a very high vaccine uptake, combining an autumn 2023 vaccination programme for people aged 60 years and older with a spring 2023 vaccination campaign for people aged 80 years and older is expected to prevent up to 44 percent of COVID-19-related hospitalizations. 

In conducting the mathematical modelling, ECDC experts took into consideration the knowledge gathered on a number of factors including waning vaccine effectiveness, age groups targeted by the most recent autumn/winter 2022/23 vaccine booster campaign as well as the 2022 epidemiological situation. 

Ultimately, national decisions on the best strategies suited for the local epidemiological context should be undertaken by countries, taking into account their specific context, especially considering the likely uptake in a given age group to maximise impact. Considerable uncertainties on future epidemiological developments remain and this may influence future decisions.   

For successful campaigns, public health authorities may consider developing targeted communication activities focused on reaching high-priority groups through trusted channels and messengers, and providing clear information on which groups are recommended for vaccination, the type of vaccines available, and the timing.