The director of the European Medicines Agency, Emer Cooke, said this Tuesday that the agency has plans to accelerate the adaptation of vaccines to the new omicron variant if necessary, a process that he has estimated will take between three and four months.
In an intervention in the European Parliament, Cooke has wanted to send a message of prudence in the face of the new variant and has insisted that many elements of the new variant to determine whether existing vaccines will need to be adapted.
“We don’t know yet if this will be needed, but in any case we have contingency plans in place. We work with regulators because we hope for the best, but we are prepared for the worst“, said the head of the EMA.
At all times he has stressed that existing vaccines are still effective against the variants that circulate in Europe. “We know that the virus is mutating and there will be a point where we have to change the current approach,” he said, insisting that current vaccines protect against the coronavirus and reiterating the advice to receive the booster dose.
Adapting the vaccines would take “between three and four months” from the moment the decision is made, Cooke explained, noting that the epidemiological situation in Europe, the level of circulation of the variant and population factors must first be studied. European as age or vaccination in the spread of the variant.
“We don’t know yet if this will be needed, but in any case we have contingency plans in place.”
Anyway, he opined that the situation in Europe is different from that of South Africa because European vaccination coverage is more advanced “and we are already in the phase of recommending booster doses”, so there are “several factors that could influence” in the circulation of the omicron variant in the European region.
On the other hand, Cooke has reaffirmed the need for expand vaccination coverage in “those countries where it is dangerously low” and has considered this “particularly important as we learn more about the omicron variant”.
However, Cooke has acknowledged that the vaccine effectiveness decreases over time and has deemed it “very important” to initiate booster vaccination for people receiving such a recommendation, as well as vaccination of children, after Pfizer was approved for use last week in minors between 5 and 11 years old.
In addition, the EMA hopes to have “by the end of this week” a scientific recommendation on the mix & match strategy, the combination of different vaccines.
Cooke has emphasized that “we have many more tools to fight this pandemic right now than we had last winter”, but has warned that vaccines “are and will continue to be the key” to this.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.