The EMA says there is still no answer as to whether it will be necessary to adapt the vaccine to omicron

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) considers the plan of Pedro Sanchez to start treating Covid-19 like a common flu. That is, without counting each case or testing for the slightest symptom or quarantines, but rather controlling it like any respiratory disease. “The virus still behaves like a pandemic virus and the appearance of omicron is clearly showing it,” said the EMA’s head of vaccination. Marco Cavalieri, when asked about the words of the Prime Minister.

The new variant causes a less serious disease: the risk of hospitalization is reduced to “about half” compared to delta. At the same time, omicron is highly contagious, resulting in a high number of infected people. “It is important to be aware of its potential burden and not dismiss it as a mild disease,” Cavalieri said.

When can Covid-19 be considered an endemic virus and no longer a pandemic, as Sánchez maintains? When will we see the light at the end of the tunnel? “Nobody knows where the end of the tunnel is, but we will get there. It is true that we are moving towards a situation where the virus becomes endemic, but we haven’t reached that stage yet“, responds the person in charge of the EMA.

“The virus is still behaving like a pandemic virus and the appearance of omicron is clearly showing it. So we must not forget that we are in a pandemic“, Cavalieri replied.

“However, with the increase in immunity among the population – and with omicron we are going to have a lot of natural immunity in addition to vaccination – we will move rapidly towards a scenario that is close to endemicity,” he concluded.

Vaccine efficacy

The EMA states that current vaccines against Covid-19 are less effective against symptomatic disease caused by omicron, but provide a “high protection” against the most serious cases, hospitalization and death caused by the new variant, which is already the dominant one in Europe.

The European regulator assures that more data is still needed to decide if a new specific vaccine adapted to omicron will be necessary. The new injection would not obtain authorization until April or May at the earliest and by then the epidemiological situation and the circulation of variants could have changed considerably.

For this reason, the EMA is in favor of studying other alternatives, such as a multipurpose vaccine that works against several variants. In any case, the European regulator is in permanent contact with all laboratories regarding the design of clinical trials and the data they must provide so that new vaccines can be approved in an accelerated manner. Any decision must be made in a coordinated way at the global level, Cavalieri has insisted.

While waiting for white smoke, the EMA recommendation is to continue vaccinating people who still do not have the initial regimen and speed up the delivery of booster doses to the entire population.

“Preliminary results from recently published studies show that the efficacy of vaccines against symptomatic disease is significantly reduced for omicron and tends to decrease over time. More vaccinated people will develop omicron infection and disease,” Cavalieri said.

“Regarding cases of severe illness and hospitalization for the omicron variant, emerging evidence, including real-world data, suggests that Covid-19 vaccines continue to provide high protection“, says the person in charge of vaccination of the EMA.

People who have received two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have up to 70% protection against omicron hospitalization, according to studies conducted in South Africa. This protection diminishes over time but rises again to 90% with the booster dose, according to UK data.

No to continuous revaccination

Should those under 18 years of age also be revaccinated? The EMA has already received a request from Pfizer to authorize the third dose for adolescents aged 16 and 17 and expects to pronounce shortly. This laboratory also plans to order shortly that its booster injection also be administered to minors between 13 and 15 years of age.

Should a fourth dose be administered, starting with the most vulnerable population? The EMA responds that there is not enough data yet, but that this possibility should be considered as a “contingency plan”. However, Cavalieri has advised that “repeating vaccines in a short time interval is not a sustainable strategy“.

“If we administer boosters every four months, we will end up having a problem with the immune response, which will not be as good as we would like. We must be careful not to overload the immune system, “said the head of the EMA. In addition, repeat vaccination would cause” fatigue in the population. “In his opinion, the best solution would be to inject more spaced and synchronized reinforcements with the arrival of the cold season, as it already happens with the flu.

Disclaimer: If you need to update/edit/remove this news or article then please contact our support team Learn more