The European Medicines Agency (EMA) anticipates that new, two-strain vaccines against COVID-19 could be ready in September, Reuters reports.
mRNA vaccines made to combat both the original Wuhan strain of the virus and various strains of the Omicron variant are undergoing development by an alliance between Moderna (MRNA.O) and the BioNTech-Pfizer (22UAy.DE).
Viruses naturally mutate as they circulate through populations, and vaccination science has long recognized the necessity of updating vaccines to match the most dominant strains in the population and make the vaccines more effective. New flu vaccines, for example, are developed annually using new strains of the virus. These are called bivalent vaccines.
A sub-strain of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 is the most dominant COVID-19 variant presently circulating.
“We project that by the end of this month the BA.5 sublineage will be the dominant variant in most of the EU countries,” Pierre Delsaux, the director EU’s Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority, told members of the European Parliament in a hearing, according to Reuters.
Vaccines targeting the BA.1, BA.4, and BA.5 strains of the Omicron variant are in developmental stages, but the EMA is not certain all will be approved by September.
“Whatever bivalent vaccine is finally… available in Europe, it will be a good vaccine, it will be a better vaccine, even against BA.4/BA.5,” Delsaux said.
COVID-19 cases and hospitalisation rose in June, but not alarmingly.
On July 11, the EMA agencies issued a recommendation for booster shots for those between 60 and 79 and for those with other risk factors.