Covid-19: ‘Essential’ that countries speed up vaccinations – EU agency

Experts in some member states opt for ‘mix and match’ approach to doses

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control urged EU citizens to get vaccinated and adhere to the recommended number of doses. Photograph: iStock

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control urged EU citizens to get vaccinated and adhere to the recommended number of doses. Photograph: iStock

 

It is “essential” countries speed up vaccination programmes, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has said, as the Delta variant could represent 90 per cent of all Covid cases circulating in the EU by the end of August.

The Delta variant “may seriously hamper efforts to control the pandemic” if second doses of vaccines were not delivered “as soon as possible”. Closing immunity gaps and reducing the opportunity for new variants to emerge was important for all European Union countries, a statement from the EU-wide body said.

The ECDC urged EU citizens to get vaccinated and adhere to the recommended number of doses.

Completion of both doses of a two-dose Covid-19 vaccine was “vital” and preliminary evidence suggested both doses are needed to provide adequate protection against the Delta variant, it said.

There were still 10 EU countries where nearly 30 per cent or more of individuals older than 80 years of age have not yet completed the recommended vaccination course, according to the ECDC’s vaccine tracker.

Experts responsible for the vaccination programmes in half of EU member states have opted to use different vaccines for the second dose from the one used for the first dose.

This strategy, sometimes referred to as “mix and match”, has historically been applied for some other vaccines, such as Ebola, HIV and hepatitis. There were “good scientific grounds” to expect this strategy to be safe and effective when applied to Covid-19 vaccines, the ECDC stated.

Preliminary results from studies in Spain, Germany and the UK suggested a satisfactory immune response and no safety concerns from the use of the so-called “mix and match” strategy, though more data is to be reviewed by the ECDC as it becomes available.

Similarly, the ECDC advised that work was needed in some EU countries to increase vaccine uptake among healthcare workers and staff of hospitals and long-term care facilities, in order to protect frail and elderly patients.