European medicines regulator expresses doubts over need for fourth booster dose

The exterior of EMA, the European Medicines Agency, can be viewed in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, December 18, 2020. REUTERS / Piroschka van de Wouw

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Jan. 11 (Reuters) – The European Union’s medicines regulator on Tuesday expressed doubts about the need for a fourth booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and said there were currently no data for support this approach because it was looking for more data on the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

“Although the use of additional boosters may be part of contingency plans, repeated vaccinations at short intervals would not represent a long-term sustainable strategy,” said Marco Cavaleri, head of vaccine strategy at the European Medicines Agency, during a press briefing.

The EMA official expressed concerns that a strategy of giving boosters every four months hypothetically poses the risk of overloading people’s immune systems and leading to fatigue in the population.

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Cavaleri also said more data on the impact of the new variant on vaccines and a better understanding of how the current wave is going is needed to decide whether an Omicron-specific vaccine is needed.

“It is important that there is a good discussion around the choice of the composition of the vaccine to ensure that we have a strategy that is not only reactive … and try to propose an approach that will be adapted in order to prevent a future variant, ”he said.

The EMA said it is currently in conversation with vaccine developers in case an updated vaccine is needed, but added that such a change would need to be coordinated globally.

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Report by Mrinalika Roy and Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Alex Richardson and Catherine Evans

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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