A new wave of Covid-19 appears to be brewing in Europe as the weather cools, with public health experts warning that vaccine fatigue and confusion over the types of vaccines available will likely limit the use of the booster.
The Omicron BA.4/5 subvariants that dominated this summer are still causing the majority of infections, but newer Omicron subvariants are gaining momentum. Hundreds of new forms of Omicron are being tracked by scientists, World Health Organization (WHO) officials said this week.
WHO data released late Wednesday showed cases in the European Union reached 1.5 million last week, up 8% from the previous week, despite a dramatic drop in testing. Globally, the number of cases continues to decline.
The number of hospitalizations in many countries in the 27-nation bloc, as well as Britain, has increased in recent weeks.
In the week ending October 4, Covid-19 hospital admissions with symptoms jumped almost 32% in Italy, while intensive care admissions increased by around 21%, compared to the previous week, according to data compiled by the independent scientific foundation Gimbe.
In the same week, Covid hospitalizations in Britain saw a 45% increase on the previous week.
Vaccines tailored to Omicron were launched in Europe from September, with two types of vaccines addressing the BA.1 as well as BA.4/5 subvariants made available alongside existing first-generation vaccines. In Great Britain, only shots suitable for BA.1 have been given the green light.
European and British officials approved the latest boosters only for certain groups of people, including the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. Complicating matters further is the “choice” of the vaccine as a booster, which will likely add to the confusion, public health experts have said.
But the will to get another shot, which could be a fourth or a fifth for some, is running out.
“For those who may be less concerned about their risk, the message that it’s all over, coupled with the absence of any major advertising campaign, is likely to reduce adoption,” said Martin McKee, health professor European public at the London School of Hygiene. and tropical medicine. “So overall, I’m afraid the absorption is a bit weaker.”
Penny Ward, visiting professor of pharmaceutical medicine at King’s College London, said: “Another confounding factor is that a fairly high proportion of the population may also have had an episode of Covid in recent months.”
Some may mistakenly think that having completed a full primary course and then falling ill with Covid means they will remain immune, she added.
Since September 5, when the rollout of new vaccines began in the European Union, around 40 million doses of vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have been delivered to member states, according to data from the European Center for Prevention. and Disease Control (ECDC).
However, weekly doses of the vaccine administered in the EU were only between 1 million and 1.4 million in September, compared to 6 to 10 million per week during the period of the previous year, according to data from the ECDC.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is the perception that the pandemic is over, creating a false sense of security.
“There must be some complacency in life that seems to be back to normal – at least when it comes to Covid and people now have other financial and war-related worries,” said Adam Finn, president of ‘ETAGE, a group of experts advising the WHO on vaccine-preventable diseases in Europe.
He added that some lawmakers were also dropping the ball.
Italy’s science foundation Gimbe said the government, which will soon be replaced after an election, was ill-prepared for the autumn-winter season, and pointed out that a publication on the government’s handling of the pandemic had been blocked.
The Health Ministry declined to comment.
Meanwhile, British officials warned last week that further circulation of flu and a resurgence of Covid-19 could put pressure on the already stretched National Health Service.
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