In a letter to each of the 27 EU member states, Stella Kyriakides called on their respective Health Ministers to take preemptive measures in preparation for the autumn season with regard to the coronavirus pandemic, which may include the administration of newly adapted vaccines against the Omicron variant, given the recent increase in Covid cases in the European Union.
The new wave of infections has been accompanied by increased rates of serious illness and hospitalization in hospitals and intensive care units due to COVID-19, Ms. Kyriakides points out, underlining that member states should be vigilant and continue to implement the guidelines they have agreed upon.
In particular, Ms. Kyriakides states in her letter that although the approved vaccines remain effective against severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths, the EMA is working towards the approval of vaccines adapted to the Omicron variant by September, as the latest data shows how vaccine protection wanes over time.
According to the letter, member states should ensure that they have the ability to take advantage of the modified vaccines once they are delivered, possibly by combining the vaccination campaign against COVID-19 with the vaccination campaigns against seasonal influenza.
The measures recommended by Commissioner Kyriakides through the Commission for the summer months include the granting of a second booster dose to people over 60 as well as to people in high-risk groups.
At the same time, it calls on the member states to prioritize the utilization of the doses that are already available in order to convince those who have not completed their vaccination regimen, or have not received the booster doses to which they are entitled, to do so as soon as possible.
It also recommends the implementation of integrated surveillance systems for the spread of severe respiratory diseases in the run-up to winter and in the future, especially with regard to the possibility of rapidly scaling up control capacity.
Finally, the letter points out that member states should prepare for a return to schools and workplaces after the end of the summer, keeping the option of imposing measures such as social distancing and protective masks, but avoiding school closures if possible.
Among other things, investments could be made to install efficient ventilation systems in workplaces and schools, she added.