The Hague, Holland:
The proliferation of the Omicron variant is pushing Covid towards being an endemic disease that humanity can live with, even if it remains a pandemic so far, the EU Drug Watch said on Tuesday.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) also expressed doubts about giving a fourth vaccine injection to the general population, saying that repeated boosters were not a “sustainable” strategy.
“No one knows exactly when we will be at the end of the tunnel, but we will be there,” Marco Cavaleri, head of vaccine strategy at the Amsterdam-based regulator, told reporters.
“With the increase in immunity in the population – and with Omicron there will be a lot of natural immunity that takes place on top of vaccination – we will move quickly towards a scenario that will be closer to endemic,” he added.
But he stressed that “we should not forget that we are still in a pandemic”, noting the huge burden on healthcare from the rise of Omicron.
The World Health Organization said earlier Tuesday that more than half of people in Europe were on their way to catch the variant in the next two months.
The WHO also warned that repeated Covid boosters were not a viable strategy, according to the EU’s drug regulator.
“If we have a strategy where we give boosters every four months, we will end up potentially having problems with immune response,” said the EMA’s Cavalry.
“And secondly, of course, there is the risk of fatigue in the population by continuous administration of boosters.”
Countries should instead start thinking about allocating boosters at longer intervals and synchronizing them with the onset of the cold season in the way that flu vaccines are currently administered, Cavaleri said.
The EMA said separately that studies had confirmed that despite being more contagious, the risk of hospitalization from the Omicron variant was between one-third and one-half that of the Delta strain.
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