Covid: new variants could emerge this winter, EMA warns

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The European Medicines Agency has warned of the possible appearance of new variants of Covid-19 in the coming months. However, existing vaccines should still be effective.

New variants of the coronavirus could appear this winter, but existing vaccines should protect people against severe forms of the disease, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Friday.

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The European regulator was holding a regular news conference on the Covid-19 situation as the European Union prepares to launch a recall campaign ahead of a feared wave of new cases by the end of the year.

The booster campaign will be with suitable vaccines, approved by the EMA on Thursday, targeting the now-dominant Omicron variant, and the original vaccines developed to combat the first strain of the virus that first appeared in China in 2019, the EMA said, based in Amsterdam. But people “should not wait for a specific vaccine,” said EMA’s chief vaccine strategist, Marco Cavaleri.

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A new vaccine from Pfizer is expected in mid-September

“A completely new variant could be emerging that we cannot predict today,” added Marco Cavaleri. The EMA on Thursday approved adapted vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna targeting the Omicron BA.1 subvariant in addition to the parent strain.

A new Pfizer vaccine targeting the contagious BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the Omicron variant, which have emerged in recent months as the world’s dominant strains, should be licensed in mid-September. A similar vaccine from Moderna is also in the works.

These Omicron-adapted vaccines will largely be reserved for vulnerable people such as the elderly, pregnant women and health sector workers, Marco Cavaleri stressed.

Most people will receive the original vaccines, “still capable of protecting against the severe form of Covid-19 and death”, even if they are less effective in preventing contamination, he explained.

Furthermore, it is “not excluded” that new variants will emerge this winter, closer to the previous Omicron sub-variants, currently largely outclassed by the BA.4 and 5 lineages.

Author: QM with AFP
Source: BFM TV

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