A traveler is given a test for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a testing facility prior to departure as countries leave on Jan.
Loren Elliott | Reuters
The European Union could approve a Covid-19 vaccination against the new Omicron variant within three to four months, the medical authority of the block announced on Tuesday.
Pharmaceutical companies are investigating whether their Covid vaccines will remain effective against the Omicron variant that appeared in southern Africa a week ago. The European Medicines Agency announced Tuesday that the agency will be ready to approve them within a few months if the recordings need to be revised.
“We have to prepare for the event that the current vaccines need to be changed and that is the work that companies will do,” said Emer Cooke, Executive Director of the European Medicines Agency, in the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday.
“We might be able to approve this within three to four months,” she said.
The EMA was previously criticized for taking longer than other drug regulators to approve coronavirus vaccines.
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said Tuesday that there are now 44 cases of the new variant in 10 countries in the region.
Speaking to European lawmakers, Cooke stressed that the current vaccinations would still provide protection and appealed to people to get vaccinated.
“Even if the new variant spreads more widely, the vaccines we have will continue to offer protection,” she said.
The European Union has seen mixed uptake of coronavirus vaccines, with countries like Ireland and Portugal having vaccination rates of around 90% while many others lag behind.
Amid the uncertainty that the new variant brings with it, EU officials have not held back from asking citizens to vaccinate.
“Already faced with a challenging winter due to the high transferability of the Delta variant, a very high immunity gap and the relaxation of non-pharmaceutical interventions and personal behavior, we can now be exposed to further or additional stresses due to the appearance of the Omicron variant.” “Said EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides in a letter to European ministers viewed by CNBC on Monday.
She added: “I am therefore writing to encourage you and your other health ministers to do everything possible to further increase the vaccination rate in all eligible groups. The more we vaccinate, the greater the benefit of the vaccination will be. “
European nations had to struggle with increasing infections in the last few weeks before the new variant was announced. Germany, Belgium, Austria and the Czech Republic are part of a group of nations that have tightened social restrictions to contain the spread. The latter two nations focused on restricting activity for those who were not vaccinated.
Greece was the last country to announce compulsory vaccination. As of Jan. 16, people aged 60 and over who have not been vaccinated will be charged a monthly fine of EUR 100 ($ 114), according to Reuters.