New variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus may appear this winter, but existing vaccines should protect the population from severe forms of the disease, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced today, as the The European Union is preparing to launch a booster vaccination campaign ahead of winter.
This campaign will take place with the adapted vaccines, which the EMA approved on Thursday and target the now dominant Omicron variant. The first vaccines developed to treat the original strain of the virus will also be used.
The world “shouldn’t wait for a specific vaccine,” said the EMA’s head of vaccine strategy, Marco Cavalleri. “A brand new variant could emerge, which we are not in a position to predict today,” he added.
The EMA on Thursday approved vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna targeting the Omicron BA.1 subvariant, as well as the original strain. Another Pfizer vaccine targeting Omicron’s BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants is expected to be approved in mid-September. The company Moderna is also preparing a similar vaccine.
Tailored vaccines will primarily target the most vulnerable population groups, such as the elderly, pregnant women and health workers, Cavalleri said.
Most will receive the initial vaccines, “which are able to protect against the severe form of Covid-19 and death”, although they are not as effective in preventing infection, he explained.