1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

COVID pandemic 'far from over,' EU health regulator warns

September 20, 2022

The European Medicines Agency considers the coronavirus pandemic as "ongoing." Meanwhile, Germany is set to roll out booster shots adapted to tackle the omicron variant.

Exterior view of the European Medicines Agency, EMA, in Amsterdam's business district, Netherlands
The EU drug regulator has taken a more cautious stance in comparison with the USImage: Peter Dejong/AP Photo/picture alliance

The European Union's drug regulator said on Tuesday that although infections and death rates were down, the COVID-19 pandemic was still "ongoing" and that a planned vaccination campaign would gather pace as winter approaches.

EMA last week approved the first vaccine to specifically target the highly infectious BA.4 and BA.5 types of the coronavirus' omicron variant.

The vaccine also targets "the original strain of SARS-CoV-2" and comes 11 days after the drug watchdog approved vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna against the omicron BA.1 variant.

"We in Europe still consider the pandemic as ongoing and it's important that member states prepare for rollout of the vaccines and especially the adaptive vaccines to prevent further spread of this disease in Europe," the European Medicines Agency's Chief Medical Officer Steffen Thirstrup said at a media briefing.

The announcement comes as last week US President Joe Biden declared the pandemic "over." 

Also on Tuesday, France's HAS health authority followed the EMA's lead by clearing two separate COVID vaccine boosters — updated ones developed by Moderna and BioNTech-Pfizer in order to target the Omicron variant.

Living with long COVID in Mexico

Germany to roll out omicron-adapted shots

Meanwhile, Germany's official vaccination body has recommended giving Omicron-orientated booster shots to those eligible.

Germany's Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) — an independent panel of experts that advises the government during the pandemic — on Tuesday advised that it is preferable to receive a booster adapted to target the Omicron variant if the individual has to receive a third or fourth jab.

STIKO's draft recommendation says that a first booster vaccination — or third dose — is still recommended for people 12 years of age and older — "usually six months after basic immunization is complete or infection has been passed."

How does COVID compare to the flu?

jsi/jcg (Reuters, dpa, AFP)