EU drugs watchdog says Omicron pushing COVID-19 towards endemic

Jan 12, 2022: The EU’s Drug Watchdog said on Tuesday that the spread of the Omicron variety was pushing covid to a local disease with which humanity could survive, although it was still a pandemic at this point.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) also expressed skepticism about giving the general population a fourth vaccine shot, saying that repeated shots 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.

He added: ““With the increase of immunity in population — and with Omicron, there will be a lot of natural immunity taking place on top of vaccination — we will be fast moving towards a scenario that will be closer to endemicity,”

But he stressed that “we should not forget we are still in a pandemic”, noting the huge burden on healthcare from the surge in Omicron.

The World Health Organisation said earlier 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 booster boosters were not a viable strategy, echoing comments from the EU’s drug regulator.

“If we have a strategy in which we give boosters every four months, we will end up potentially having problems with immune response,” the EMA’s Cavaleri said.

“And secondly of course there is the risk of fatigue in the population with continuous administration of boosters.”

Cavaleri said countries should start thinking about keeping boosters out of the long haul, and adapting them to the onset of cold weather in the same way that flu vaccines are currently being administered. Separately, the EMA said that studies have confirmed that, despite being highly contagious, the risk of hospitalization for Omicron variants was between one-third and one-half that of delta strains.

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