EMA and ECDC Recommend Prioritizing at-Risk Population in Future COVID-19 Vaccination Campaigns
June 12, 2023. 1:51 pm
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have advised that future COVID-19 vaccination campaigns should prioritize people who are most at risk of severe illness before the onset of winter.
This at-risk group includes people aged 60 and above, people with weakened immune systems and underlying medical conditions that put them at a higher risk of severe COVID-19 infection, regardless of their age, and pregnant women. Additionally, healthcare workers, who are more likely to be exposed to new waves of SARS-CoV-2, should also be considered for early vaccination to ensure a smooth functioning of healthcare systems.
The ECDC and EMA emphasize that timely vaccination is crucial before the onset of a potential sudden surge in COVID-19 cases in fall and winter 2023 to protect individuals from severe illness and to avoid overwhelming healthcare systems.
Updated Composition of COVID-19 Vaccines
The EMA Emergency Task Force recommends updating COVID-19 vaccines to target the XBB strains (a subgroup of Omicron), which have become dominant in Europe and other parts of the world.
The ECDC and EMA emphasize that although the currently licensed vaccines continue to be effective in preventing hospitalization, severe illness, and death from COVID-19, the protection against the virus wanes over time as new variants emerge, requiring the vaccines to be updated.
Moreover, the ECDC and EMA recommend monovalent vaccines that target a single strain, such as XBB.1.5, to provide protection against current and emerging strains.
People with weakened immune systems may need additional doses as per national recommendations, and a minimum interval of three months should be maintained for revaccinations. However, a four-month interval between doses may be considered based on evidence showing a high level of protection against severe disease four months after vaccination.