Covid-19: EU Tells Members to Prepare for Autumn and Winter as ‘Pandemic is Not Over’
The European Commission recently proposed measures in order for Member States to avoid a surge of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the upcoming autumn and winter season.
As highlighted by the Commission, the COVID-19 summer wave, driven by Omicron BA.4 and BA.5, showed that “the pandemic is not yet over” as the virus continues to circulate in Europe and beyond.
“All Member States have lifted most restrictions and their populations are experiencing pandemic fatigue, which could lead to changes in behaviour,” the Commission said in a statement.
“This makes it easier for the virus to circulate rapidly in the EU, opening the door to the emergence of new variants that could evade immunity, spread more easily, or cause more severe disease. It is therefore possible that the costly gains made in response to the pandemic could be lost if the virus is not controlled and further infections are not prevented.”
EU member countries are urged to put the necessary strategies and structures in place, including for COVID-19 vaccination and surveillance, to respond to future outbreaks in a fast and sustained manner.
According to the Commission, the main aim of the actions is to increase the uptake of vaccines, including adapted and new vaccines, and to ensure that all citizens are well protected.
Main actions on COVID-19 vaccination
In particular, the Commission encourages the Member States to:
– Improve the vaccine uptake of the primary vaccination course and first booster dose among eligible individuals. This is of particular importance for population groups at higher risk of severe outcomes and for countries with lower vaccination rates.
– Prioritise the administration of an additional booster dose for specific population groups, notably people aged 60 years and over and other eligible individuals of any age at risk of severe disease.
– Combine COVID-19 and influenza vaccination campaigns. Accompany vaccination with regularly updated and clear communication, based on epidemiological developments, behavioural insights, and public perception.
– Ensuring clear communication to citizens about the benefits of vaccination.
Adapted omicron vaccines
On 1 September, based on the recommendation of the European Medicines Agency, the Commission authorised the adapted omicron vaccines from BioNTech Pfizer and Moderna in the EU. Other measures that should be taken in view of new and adapted COVID-19 vaccines becoming available include:
– Developing national vaccination strategies clarifying which vaccines, including the new and adapted vaccines, should be administered to which population groups, this also in view of the possible emergence of new variants based on the guidance to be issued shortly by the European Medicines Agency and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
– Ensuring sufficient logistical capacity to administer the vaccines as soon as new and adapted vaccines are delivered.
With regard to other actions beyond vaccination, the Commission said that face masks or limiting the size of gatherings, to limit the spread of the virus remain a crucial part of the toolbox of Member States. It is important that all Member States are prepared to reintroduce public health measures based on clear thresholds. Any measures implemented in schools should be adapted to the educational setting and the age group and kept at a minimum to prevent any disruption of education.
Furthermore, continued efforts to facilitate free movement in the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic remain crucial, both for people and goods. In the context of travel from third countries, the Commission intends to propose a revision of the relevant Council Recommendation shortly, in order to take account of the changed epidemiological situation, increased vaccination across the globe and the developments of entry requirements in the Member States.
Moreover, the Commission said that the preparedness of healthcare systems for infectious disease outbreaks and other types of shocks must be improved.
Member States are also encouraged to join forces to gather up-to-date evidence on post-COVID conditions and to improve the training of health workforce so that long-COVID can be better recognized, especially in primary care.
“To end the pandemic, it remains crucial to support the efforts to fight COVID-19 globally. The EU will continue working with international partners to ensure rapid development, scale-up and equitable distribution of vaccines worldwide,” the Commission said.
…. Which could lead to changes in bahaviour”. Sounds a lot like when I first trained my dog when he was a puppy. Your training isn’t over until we tell you it’s over!