ATHENS – The first updated vaccines for COVID-19 targeting the subvariant BA.1 of Omicron and the virus strain that appeared in the city Wuhan in China in 2019, was approved by the Εuropean Medicines Agency (EMA). According to EMA the new vaccines are going to be used to people over 12-years-old that have been already vaccinated at least once against COVID-19.
In Greece, the updated vaccines are expected to arrive next month and the National Vaccinations Committee will issue instructions on the vaccination procedure.
EMA will also issue its consultation on the vaccines against Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 in the next weeks.
Assistant professor of Hygiene and Epidemiology at the Department of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Medical Statistics of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and member of the novel coronavirus Experts Committee, Ghikas Magiorkinis said that the updating logic of the vaccines against COVID-19 is the same as the updating of vaccines against influenza.
On the obligatory vaccinations, Magiorkinis said that “currently we do not see any pressure for obligatory vaccinations and it is not a possible scenario” Magiorkinis said to Athens-Macedonian News Agency.
He also said that over 50 percent of the populations was infected this summer with the prevailing subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 of Omicron and explained that the specific strains were pyrogenic, namely, they have stronger immunological responses than the subvariants BA.1 and BA.2 of Omicron, “so we believe that the immunity created will be higher but we have to see it in practice”.
Magiorkinis also noted that we can’t say with certainty that we are at an endemic phase. “Τhe specific pandemic will not be eradicated, the coronavirus will not disappear. When we say that the pandemic is over we mean that we will pass to a co-existence phase with the virus” and he did not exclude the possibility of a new mutation in the next month’s adding that the pandemics get gradually weaker with the building of cross immunity with vaccines and contaminations.
The co-existence of influenza and COVID-19 is something that causes serious concern to the scientists “It is difficult to make an estimation what will happen to the National Health System, but certainly the pressure expected in the months of October and November is something that worries us, as this year influenza made its appearence two months earlier” Magiorkinis said, .
According to Magiorkinis, the population and especially those below 50, that most of them are not vaccinated against influenza, were not exposed to the virus in the last two years. So, as the population’s immunity is significantly lower and the virus’ flows are arriving earlier we will see a surge in flu infections mostly in the young population. He also estimated that the vaccination against influenza should start earlier this year but the big question is if there is availability of updated influenza vaccines in the market.