Covid-19: EMA, ECDC urge vaccination as Delta variant cases rise

With the increasing circulation of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 in EU/EEA countries, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) strongly encourage those who are eligible for vaccination but have not yet been vaccinated to start and complete the recommended Covid-19 vaccination schedule in a timely manner, the EMA and ECDC said in a joint statement.

“Full vaccination with any of the EU/EEA-approved vaccines offers a high level of protection against severe disease and death caused by SARS-CoV-2, including variants, such as Delta,” the joint statement said.

The highest level of protection is achieved after enough time (seven to 14 days) has passed from the day of the last vaccine dose, they said.

Vaccination is also important for protecting those at highest risk of severe disease and hospitalisation, reducing the spread of the virus, and preventing the emergence of new variants of concern.

Mike Catchpole, ECDC’s chief scientist said: “While the available vaccines are highly effective in protecting people against severe Covid-19, until higher proportions of the population are immunised, the risk is not beyond us.

“We are now witnessing an increasing number of Covid-19 cases across the EU/EEA and vaccines remain the best available option to avoid an increase in severe disease and death,” Catchpole said.

As vaccination campaigns gather pace across the EU/EEA, it may be advisable in some cases to consider reducing the interval between first and second doses, within the authorised limits, particularly for people at risk of severe Covid-19 who have not completed the recommended vaccine schedule, the statement said.

“Although the effectiveness of all Covid-19 vaccines authorised in the EU/EEA is very high, no vaccine is 100 per cent effective.

“This means that a limited number of SARS-CoV-2 infections among persons that have completed the recommended vaccination schedule (i.e. ‘breakthrough infections’) are expected. However, when infections do occur, vaccines can prevent severe disease to a large extent, and greatly reduce the number of people in hospital due to Covid-19,” the statement said.

Fergus Sweeney, EMA’s Head of Clinical Studies and Manufacturing said: ‘’These Covid-19 vaccines are very effective. However, as long as the virus continues to circulate, we will continue to see breakthrough infections in vaccinated people.

“This does not mean that the vaccines are not working. Vaccinated people are far better protected against severe Covid-19 than unvaccinated people, and we should all endeavour to be fully vaccinated at the earliest opportunity,” Sweeney said.

EMA and ECDC recommend full Covid-19 vaccination for all eligible citizens. Until more people are fully vaccinated, and while SARS-CoV-2 is still spreading, everyone should adhere to national regulations and continue to take measures such as wearing masks and respecting social distancing, even those individuals who have received a complete vaccination schedule, the statement said.

EMA and ECDC remain committed to working closely with other EU bodies and national agencies to gather, produce and share the best scientific data to help member states protect public health in the context of their national situations.

Separately, on August 4 the European Commission said that it had approved its seventh Advanced Purchase Agreement (APA) with Novavax to ensure access to a potential vaccine against Covid-19 in the fourth quarter of 2021 and in 2022.

Novavax is a biotechnology company developing next-generation vaccines for serious infectious diseases. Their Covid-19 vaccine is already under rolling review by EMA in view of a potential market authorisation.

The Commission had taken the decision to support this vaccine based on a sound scientific assessment, the technology used, the company’s experience in vaccine development and its production capacity to supply the whole of the EU, the statement said.

Under this contract, EU countries will be able to purchase up to 100 million doses of the Novavax vaccine, with an option for 100 million additional doses over the course of 2021, 2022, and 2023, once reviewed and approved by EMA as safe and effective.

EU countries will also be able to donate vaccines to lower and middle-income countries or to re-direct them to other European countries.

The August 4 contract complements  an already broad portfolio of vaccines to be produced in Europe, including the contracts with AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, BioNtech-Pfizer, CureVac, Moderna and the concluded exploratory talks with Valneva.

“It represents another key step towards ensuring that Europe is well prepared to face the Covid-19 pandemic,” the Commission said.

(Photo: Bulgaria’s Military Medical Academy)

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The Sofia Globe staff

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