Corona vaccines adapted to the Omicron variant should now also be used in the European Union.
On Thursday, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in Amsterdam recommended vaccines from Biontech/Pfizer and Moderna that are adapted to the omicron subvariant BA.1. According to Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD), the new vaccines are to be delivered in Germany as early as next week.
So far, no such corona vaccines have been approved in the EU, vaccinations continue to be carried out with corona vaccines that were approved around 20 months ago. EMA’s decision is eagerly awaited to launch booster vaccination campaigns with vaccines better matched to the Omicron variant.
The aim of the special meeting on Thursday is to complete the examination of the approval applications from Biontech/Pfizer and Moderna, the EMA announced in advance.
This involves so-called bivalent corona vaccines, which are effective both against the original form of the corona virus and against BA.1, a subtype of the omicron variant of the corona virus.
However, the newer omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 now predominate worldwide. They had caused the latest corona waves in Europe and the USA in the past few months. According to the EMA, a Corona vaccine from Biontech/Pfizer tailored to these two subtypes is expected to be approved in autumn.
In the USA, the drug agency FDA already granted emergency authorization for the BA.4/BA.5 vaccines from the Mainz-based company Biontech and its US partner Pfizer as well as the US manufacturer Moderna on Wednesday. The Biontech drug is approved from the age of twelve and the Moderna vaccine from the age of 18
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, it has already bought 105 million doses of Biontech/Pfizer and 66 million of Moderna for a refresher campaign in the United States. In order for vaccinations to start with the new vaccines, the US health authority CDC must also give the green light. The Moderna vaccine against the original virus type and BA.1 has been approved in Great Britain since mid-August.
Lauterbach said in view of the forthcoming EMA approval decision on Thursday on ARD: “Now it really makes sense to wait a few days for the new vaccine to be available.” Both new vaccines adapted to the omicron variant offer “very good protection” against old and new virus variants.
According to its own statements, Lauterbach is in discussion with the Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko). A week after the approval of the new vaccine, the panel will make a recommendation.
Even if the new vaccines are tailored to the BA.1 variant, they are also effective against other omicron variants, Lauterbach explained in a letter to the service providers of the vaccination campaign at the beginning of the week. A vaccine adapted to the Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5 will “be available only a few weeks later,” the letter also said.