The European Union’s drug regulator on Tuesday (January 11) expressed doubts about the need for a fourth booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and said there is currently no data to support the view as it is a rapidly spreading vaccine. Omicron wants more data on the version.
“While the use of additional boosters may be part of contingency plans, repeated vaccinations within short intervals will not represent a sustainable long-term strategy,” Marco Cavallari, head of vaccine strategy for the European Medicines Agency, told a media briefing.
The EMA official expressed concern that the strategy of giving boosters every four months runs the risk of overloading people’s immune systems and leading to fatigue in the population.
Cavallari also said that more data on the new version’s impact on vaccines and a better understanding of current wave developments are needed to determine whether an Omicron-specific vaccine is needed.
“It’s important that there is a good discussion about the choice of vaccine composition, to make sure we have a strategy that is not just reactive … and try to come up with an approach that will prevent this.” Will be suitable for future versions,” he said.
The EMA said it is currently in talks with vaccine developers if an updated vaccine is needed, but said any such changes would need to be coordinated globally.
The World Health Organization said earlier on Tuesday that more than half of people in Europe were on track to catch the variant in the next two months.
The WHO also warned that repeated COVID boosters were not a viable strategy, the EU drug regulator commented.
“If we have a strategy in which we give boosters every four months, we will potentially eliminate problems with the immune response,” said EMA’s Cavallari.
“And secondly, there is a risk of fatigue in the population with continued administration of the booster.”
Cavallari said countries should instead consider applying boosters at longer intervals and to coincide with the onset of cold weather, the way flu vaccines are currently given.
According to the EMA, the spread of the Omicron variant is pushing COVID into an endemic disease that humanity can live with, although it remains a pandemic for now.
“No one knows when we will be at the end of the tunnel, but we will be there,” said Cavallari.
“With increased immunity in the population – and with Omicron, a lot of natural immunity happening on top of vaccination – we are rapidly moving towards a scenario that will be close to endemic,” he said.