EU agency says omicron pushing COVID-19 out of pandemic phase

An official at the main European medical products regulatory agency said on Tuesday that the omicron COVID-19 variant could push the pandemic to become endemic.

Marco Cavaleri, head of vaccine strategy at the European Medicines Agency (EMA), told reporters on Tuesday that the natural immunity conferred by the highly infectious omicron strain could accelerate the progression to endemicity.

“With the increase in immunity in the population – and with Omicron there will be a lot of natural immunity in addition to vaccination – we will move quickly towards a scenario that will be closer to endemicity,” Cavaleri said. during a press briefing. , according to Al Jazeera.

When a virus becomes endemic, it means that a population has acquired sufficiently widespread immunity – either through infection or vaccination – that transmissions, hospitalizations and deaths will begin to decline.

Reports from South Africa, where omicron was first detected, indicated that although the variant is highly infectious, it does not lead to a corresponding increase in hospitalizations and deaths. Another South African study published last month found that omicron could reduce infections caused by the delta variant by creating cross-immunity against different strains, an effect that has not been seen in many other mutations of the SARS virus. -CoV-2.

During its briefing on Tuesday, Reuters reported that Cavaleri had also expressed doubts about the need for a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, telling reporters such an approach was not “sustainable.”

“Although the use of additional boosters may be part of contingency plans, repeated vaccinations at short intervals would not represent a long-term sustainable strategy,” he said.

“It is important that there is a good discussion around the choice of the composition of the vaccine to ensure that we have a strategy that is not only reactive … and try to propose an approach that will be adapted in order to prevent a future variant, ”he added.

Cavaleri’s remarks echo those of British infectious disease expert Sir Andrew Pollard, who said earlier this month that repeated vaccination every few months was “not sustainable”.

Pollard, who helped develop the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, said: “It really isn’t affordable, sustainable or probably even necessary to vaccinate everyone on the planet every four to six months.”

“We haven’t even been able to vaccinate everyone in Africa with a single dose, so we’re definitely not going to get to a point where fourth doses for everyone are manageable,” he added.

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