By Ludwig Burger and Natalie Grover
(Reuters) – A new wave of Covid-19 appears to be brewing in Europe as colder weather sets in, with public health experts warning that vaccine fatigue and confusion over the types of immunizers available are likely to limit uptake of the virus. booster dose.
The Omicron BA.4/5 subvariants that dominated this summer are still behind most infections, but the newer Omicron subvariants are gaining ground. Hundreds of new forms of Omicron are being tracked by scientists, World Health Organization (WHO) officials said this week.
WHO data released on Wednesday showed that cases in the European Union (EU) reached 1.5 million last week, up 8% from the previous week, despite a dramatic drop in testing. Globally, case numbers continue to decline.
The number of hospitalizations in many countries of the 27-member bloc, as well as in the United Kingdom, has increased in recent weeks.
Vaccines adapted for the Ômicron variant were launched in Europe from September, with two dose types addressing the BA.1 and BA.4/5 subvariants made available alongside existing first-generation vaccines. In the UK, only BA.1 tailored immunizers were authorised.
European and British officials have endorsed that the latest booster shots are only distributed to a select group of people, including the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. Complicating matters further is the “choice” of the vaccine as a booster, which should add to the confusion, public health experts said.
Since September 5, when the launch of new vaccines in the European Union began, 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 Disease Prevention and Control. (ECDC).
However, weekly doses of vaccine administered in the EU were only between 1 million and 1.4 million in September, compared with 6 to 10 million a week during the year-ago period, ECDC data showed.
(Reporting by Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt, Natalie Grover and Jennifer Rigby in London, Emilio Parodi in Milan)
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