EMA approves updated Pfizer, Moderna Covid vaccines to fight Omicron variant
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) gave a positive recommendation to authorize the modified versions of the Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, which should provide better protect against the Omicron variant of the virus, the European Union's medicines watchdog said on Thursday. The announcement was made after a meeting of the Amsterdam-based agency's human medicines committee.
The vaccines were recommended for use as a booster shot for anyone 12 years of age and older. The European Commission must still decide whether the vaccines may be allowed on the European market, and Dutch authorities will have to give them the green light for use in the Netherlands.
The committee judged that the modified vaccines provide a strong immune response against both the original variant, and the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. The side effects are similar to those observed in people who had a booster shot with earlier versions of the vaccines.
The coronavirus vaccines that have been used to date were created on the basis of the original variant of the virus, which appeared just under three years ago. Because the virus has mutated several times, it now responds differently. The Omicron variant and sub-variants are better able to evade defenses built up by natural exposure to the virus or by vaccination. In order to be approved for use, the new vaccines have to be "bivalent," meaning they must work against both the original coronavirus and the Omicron variant.
A new round of vaccination against Covid-19 is planned for this autumn in the Netherlands. The Cabinet wants to use the adapted Covid-19 vaccines for this. Pfizer announced earlier in the day that it can deliver the first modified vaccines to the Netherlands next week if the drug is approved for use there. The company said it plans to deliver 1.4 million doses next week, and the same amount the week after. In total, the Netherlands should receive 9.95 million vaccine doses this year.
The new vaccination round in the Netherlands is set to start in September. Anyone aged 12 and older who have had their first injections can get a booster shot. People who run an increased risk of ending up in a hospital or dying as the result of Covid-19 symptoms will be given priority, and those who work in healthcare will also get to skip the line.
The government believes that a new coronavirus wave will come in the autumn, just like last year.
Reporting by ANP