5,471 new cases reported as EMA says Ireland's low Covid death rate is indicator of vaccine efficacy

5,471 new cases reported as EMA says Ireland's low Covid death rate is indicator of vaccine efficacy

The EMA is looking at "mix and match" booster strategies where the booster dose is different from the initial vaccination. Picture: AP Photo/Manu Fernandez

A further 5,471 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed as the head of the EU's drugs regulator says vaccines remain a "key tool" and will continue to give protection against new Covid-19 variants.

Currently, there are 579 patients hospitalised with the virus, of whom 122 are in ICU.

EMA head, Emer Cooke, has told a European Parliament committee, the EU is prepared in the fight against the Omicron strain.

Ms Cooke says it could take up to four months for the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to approve any newly adapted vaccines.

However, she said the EU is well equipped to deal with emerging strains.

Guidance was put in place to allow companies to fast track adaptations to the vaccines, if needed.

"We don't know yet if this is needed but we have the contingency plans in place," said Ms Cooke.

The EMA is looking at "mix and match" booster strategies where the booster dose is different from the initial vaccination.

Such an approach could restore protection as effectively as a booster with the same vaccine, she said.

Receiving a booster vaccine is even more important now that the new Omicron variant has emerged and Ms Cooke said the data on the impact of boosters has shown that they restore or extend protection against infection and disease.

Speaking to MEPs, Ms Cooke referred to Ireland as an indicator of the protection offered by vaccination.

"From my own country, Ireland, where vaccination rates are among the highest in Europe at 93% of the adult population, the deaths per 1,000,000 population over the last 14 days were 15," said Ms Cooke.

"In two other European countries with vaccination rates of less than 50% the equivalent death rates were over 250 per 1,000,000 of the population.

"From the data, we have seen and continue to see the authorised vaccines remain effective and continue to save people from severe disease and from death.

"Even if the new variant becomes more widespread, the vaccines we have will continue to provide protection."

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