December 2, 2021: On Tuesday, the bloc’s medical agency said that the European Union could approve a Covid-19 shot against the omicron variant within three to four months.
Pharmaceutical firms are studying if their Covid vaccines remain effective against the omicron variant, emerging in southern Africa a week ago. On Tuesday, the European Medicines Agency said that if the shots end up needing to be revised, the agency gets ready to approve them within a couple of months.
“We need to prepare in case there’s a need to change the current vaccines, and that the companies will do its work,” Emer Cooke, executive director of the European Medicines Agency, said on Tuesday at the European Parliament in Brussels.
“We could be in a position to have those approved within three to four months,” she added.
The EMA has been criticized for taking more time than other drug regulators to approve coronavirus vaccines.
On Monday, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reported 33 cases of omicron in the region.
Speaking to European lawmakers, Cooke stresses that the current shots would still provide protection and appealed to people to get vaccinated.
“Even if the new variant is becoming more widespread, the vaccines we have will continue to provide protection,” she said.
The European Union has seen an uptake of coronavirus vaccines, with countries such as Ireland and Portugal to have inoculation rates at around 90% while many others lag.
Amid the uncertainty posed by the new variant, EU officials have not held back on appealing to citizens to get vaccinated.
“Already faced with a challenging winter due to the high transmissibility of the Delta variant, a very high immunity gap and the relaxation of non-pharmaceutical interventions and personal behaviors, we may now experience additional pressures due to the appearance of the Omicron variant,” European Commissioner for Health Stella Kyriakides said in a letter, viewed by CNBC, to European ministers on Monday.
Before the new variant was announced, European nations were already dealing with surging infections over the last couple of weeks. Germany, Belgium, Austria, and the Czech Republic are among the countries that stepped up social restrictions to contain the spread. The latter two nations focused on limiting activity for those who have not been vaccinated.