The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is due to discuss Thursday during an extraordinary meeting the possible approval of two suitable vaccines, that of Pfizer / BioNTech and that of Moderna.
Vaccines targeting the Omicron variant are eagerly awaited by European countries so they can launch booster campaigns ahead of a feared resurgence in Covid-19 cases this winter.
“The purpose of the meeting is to conclude the evaluation of the two applications, if possible”said the Amsterdam-based EMA.
“We will communicate the results of the meeting on September 1st”, she clarified.
Vaccines called “bivalent”
The two so-called vaccines “bivalent” which may get the green light from the EMA on Thursday target the original strain of the coronavirus, which emerged in China in 2019, and Omicron’s earlier BA.1 subvariant.
However, they do not target the contagious BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the Omicron variant, which have emerged in recent months as the dominant strains in the world.
The EMA, however, recently said it was aiming for approval “as early as the fall” of a Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine targeting the two Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants.
US health authorities on Wednesday authorized the new version of the Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna specifically targeting the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the Omicron variant.
The UK approved the Moderna vaccine targeting Omicron’s BA.1 strain in mid-August.
European Union member states are currently still using the same coronavirus vaccines approved two years ago for use against the original strain of the virus.
They offer some protection against Omicron and its subvariants, which are less harmful but more contagious than the original strain, but the world is waiting for more targeted and effective vaccines, fearing a new wave this winter.
Omicron and its sub-variants have been dominant throughout 2022, quickly taking the place of previous Alpha and Delta variants.
The BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants are notably responsible for a wave of new cases in Europe and the United States in recent months.
All Omicron variants tend to have a milder disease course as they settle less in the lungs and more in the upper nasal passages, causing symptoms such as fever, fatigue and loss of smell.
The EMA said its review of the adapted vaccines Pfizer and Moderna focused on data from laboratory studies and tests on the immune response against the original strain and against the Omicron variant.
Vaccines suitable for study Thursday “more closely match the original strain and the BA.1 Omicron subvariant”, the agency said.