EU regulator expects eventually to introduce annual COVID shots

Exterior of EMA, European Medicines Agency is seen in Amsterdam
The exterior of EMA, European Medicines Agency is seen in Amsterdam, Netherlands December 18, 2020. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo

LONDON, Feb 15 (Reuters) - The European Medicines Agency (EMA) expects COVID vaccination campaigns to be conducted once a year, similar to the approach with flu inoculation, it said on Wednesday.

Though the COVID-causing virus is not yet behaving like a seasonal virus involved in winter waves in temperate climates, the EMA's head of health threats and vaccines strategy, Marco Cavaleri, told a news briefing that "this might be the direction it will be going".

In Europe, there is a marked decline in new COVID cases, hospitalisations and deaths - the lowest levels observed in the European Union in the past twelve months, he said, citing data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Still, the virus continues to evolve, and an organised approach is needed to maintain the range of vaccines to confer an adequate breadth of protection to emerging variants, he said.

The EMA is currently in discussions with the World Health Organization and other regulatory agencies about the criteria and process that will lead to the potential update of the vaccines in view of future vaccination campaigns, he added.

Reporting by Natalie Grover in London Editing by David Goodman and Jane Merriman

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