Is the EU prepared for a COVID-19 surge this winter? 

After a surge in COVID-19 cases last winter, as well as earlier this year, EU countries are being urged to take a collaborative approach in the coming months to limit the spread of the virus. 

The European Commission has recommended new measures to prepare for rising cases over the winter season, which includes increasing uptake or new, adapted versions of vaccines. 

The newly updated boosters developed by BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were recently approved by the EMA, and these are adapted for the Omicron variant. 

In a press release, Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides called for all EU countries to enhance their vaccine uptake before winter hits. This includes, as a priority, getting the primary vaccination course for those that missed out and getting booster doses to eligible people. 

The Commission says that member states should be encouraging those over 60 and other high-risk groups, in particular, to get booster doses to reduce the number of hospitalizations. 

The Health Commissioner added that closing the gap in vaccinations should be treated as a “top priority” and that acting “in a coordinated and sustained manner” will help the EU to be fully prepared for another challenging season healthwise. 

For example, using clear communication strategies and coordinated campaigns could increase uptake, in addition to using combined COVID-19 and influenza vaccine campaigns. 

Kyriakides also pointed out, “It is crucial that all member states have robust vaccination strategies in place to prepare for the autumn and winter, including for the roll-out of the newly authorized adapted booster vaccines.” 

European Way of Life Vice-President Margaritis Schinas added: “Taking action now will limit the pressure on healthcare systems, disruptions of the economies, and challenges for the society.”

Along with vaccination, the Commission also called for other measures when appropriate, which could include face masks or limiting the size of gatherings. However, it noted that healthcare systems should also be adequately equipped for a surge in cases. 

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