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Brussels rules out a fourth dose until there is "scientific evidence"

2022-01-21T22:13:48.676Z

The European Commissioner for Health asks to focus the "energy" of the EU so that the punctures reach the millions of citizens not yet vaccinated



The discussion about a possible fourth dose has landed in the European Union, when not even half of its adult population has yet received the booster.

The European Commission has defended this Friday, during an informal and virtual meeting of the Ministers of Health of the Twenty-seven,

that the community bloc must be "prepared" to administer this additional puncture in the general population at the time there is scientific evidence and "conclusive data" on its relevance, something that for the moment has been ruled out by the European Medicines Agency (EMA, for its acronym in English). Brussels has also claimed to focus efforts so that the punctures reach the millions of Europeans not yet vaccinated.

"Scientific advice and an evidence-based approach should be our starting point," said Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health, before the 27 EU ministers. "If we see conclusive data on the need for a fourth dose, we have to be prepared to act", he stressed during his speech, emphasizing that both the EMA and the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) ) “have been very clear” that a booster dose (the second or third dose, depending on the type of vaccine) is crucial to provide adequate protection to avoid hospitalizations and the most severe forms of covid.

But these organizations have not yet ruled on a hypothetical fourth dose in a generalized way for Europeans. “What we must not forget now, and which requires us to act urgently, is that there are millions of Europeans who are not yet vaccinated. And it is precisely there where we must focus our energy now, ”Kyriakides has settled. This same week, the EMA described as "reasonable" to administer that fourth dose in people with a depressed immune system, but warning that there is still no data on its need in the general healthy population.

Brussels' position is clear: it does not rule out that more punctures will be prescribed, although this must be combined with other priorities, as the European Health Commissioner also advanced this week in an interview with EL PAÍS and a small group of media Europeans. "The discussion of the fourth dose is underway," he replied, "but I am not going to give up on the millions of Europeans who are not protected."

The Ministers of Health have faced the existential debate of the fourth puncture in a context of high transmissibility of the omicron variant, with practically all of Europe in dark red (the worst scenario) in the risk map prepared weekly by the ECDC.

The new variant of the virus has already been identified in all the countries of the EU and the European Economic Area (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), according to the latest report of the aforementioned body, and since the first week of January 21 European countries had reported of a prevalence of the omicron of 46.4%, doubling the data of the previous week.

But this scenario of very high numbers of infections is also reached with millions of Europeans immunized: almost 70% of the EU population is fully vaccinated and 40% have received the booster shot (46% among adults).

The figure is low among minors, where only 18.5% have received the complete guideline, according to the ECDC.

Some EU countries, such as Spain and Denmark, have already chosen to inoculate a fourth dose of the vaccine, but only for certain immunosuppressed groups, while Hungary gives the entire population the option, with the only requirement that they consult with a doctor.

This supplementary dose has already been injected in Israel since the beginning of January, but a study published this week in that country warned that this is insufficient to prevent the spread of omicron.

The French presidency of the EU, which is leading the European discussions this semester, has decided to place the issue of the fourth dose at the top of the agenda of the informal council this Friday, convened extraordinarily, with the aim of increase "coordination" between the member states and share national health strategies, "particularly those of vaccination", according to the communication prior to the appointment. "There is currently no scientific or political proposal on the fourth dose," adds a diplomatic source. "Hence the idea of ​​France about the need to reflect and the initiative to share between the ministers of Health."

The virtual meeting also discussed the manufacture and supply of vaccines adapted to the new variants, such as the omicron, another major concern of European capitals. "Fortunately, the vaccines we have are still effective against severe disease and death, especially when they are boosted," Kyriakides stressed, which, he added, allows us to face the current situation "while manufacturers continue to work on adapting existing vaccines.

The commissioner has stressed that the contracts already signed "allow to guarantee the supply of next-generation vaccines", and has demanded that the Member States be prepared to make "quick" decisions and place orders as soon as the companies notify "that they have a vaccine adapted”. The EMA, he stressed, would be "willing to evaluate all the new data so that the eventual authorization arrives quickly". The commissioner has also urged to look further into the horizon, to prioritize a "new generation of vaccines" that are "effective against several variants and that, ideally, protect against infection."

To date, the European Commission has ensured the supply of 4.2 billion doses against covid through centralized purchasing agreements, of which 1.2 billion have already been distributed (a figure that includes vials donated to solidarity mechanisms with low-income countries). , such as COVAX).

In total, just over 1,000 million punctures have ended up in the arms of European citizens.

Source: elparis

All life articles on 2022-01-21

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