ECDC details COVID vaccine payoffs, plan for post-peak phase

In Europe, the Omicron variant is fueling infectionc rates that are three times higher than at any other stage of the pandemic, and vaccination is the key to preventing serious health outcomes and disruptive staff shortages, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said today in its latest COVID-19 risk assessment.

Projections show booster dose benefits

Vaccine uptake across the European region has only reached 70%, and booster dosing is increasing rapidly, but has only reached 50% of adults, the ECDC said. Vaccine uptake among European populations is uneven, and countries with the lowest vaccination rates will face the highest pressure, the group said.

The ECDC suggests booster doses be given 3 months after the primary series, a shorter interval than recommended by some health groups.

Modeling estimates suggest that booster dosing though early January cut hospitalization admissions by 500,000 to 800,000. The ECDC also estimates that extending boosters to all previously vaccinated people could reduce admissions by another 300,000 to 500,000.

In a press release on the report, Stella Kyriakides, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said the Omicron activity appears to have peaked in some countries, but warned that the pandemic isn't over.

"With an increase in immunity and more vaccination, we can expect to reach a more sustainable situation with COVID-19 circulating at manageable levels faster," she said, "but we need to be cautious with long-term predictions and the maintenance of key non-pharmaceutical interventions continues to be crucial in the immediate future to keep Omicron at manageable levels."

Andrea Ammon, MD, PhD, the ECDC's director said despite high levels of circulation, the lower hospitalizations and deaths high vaccine-coverage countries have experienced highlights the impact vaccines are having.

She said medical officials realize that the strong preventive measures many countries have ordered have come with high societal and economic costs. Ammon said the ECDC suggests adapting the measures to transition to a post-acute phase, which include distancing, correct mask use, avoiding crowds, working from home when possible, staying home when sick, observing good respiratory and hand hygiene, and good indoor ventilation.

BA.2 subvariant developments

The ECDC's update also said Denmark is the only country where the BA.2 Omicron subvariant is dominant.

Meanwhile, at a briefing yesterday, Denmark's health minister said the BA.2 variant appears to be more contagious, but there's no evidence that it causes more disease.

The country's Statens Serum Institute said yesterday that early calculations suggest BA.2 is 1.5 times more infectious than the original Omicron variant and that so far, there's no sign of a difference in hospitalizations.

More global headlines

  • Countries reporting new record highs today include Russia, South Korea, and Germany, where lawmakers are discussing a vaccine mandate.

  • Amid pressure from financial companies and business travelers, Hong Kong shortened it quarantine period for incoming travelers from 21 to 14 days.

  • The global totals today climbed to 364,917,498 cases and 5,632,945 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

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