The EU Commission calls on Member States to prepare for autumn and winter

The EU Commission is proposing concrete measures to prevent a wave of COVID-19 cases in the coming autumn and winter season. The Commission is urging Member States to put in place the necessary strategies and structures, including for COVID-19 vaccination and surveillance, to respond quickly and sustainably to future outbreaks. The main aim of the actions proposed by the Commission is to increase vaccination coverage, including adapted and new vaccines, and to ensure that all citizens are well protected.

Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, responsible for promoting the European way of life, said:: Over the past two years, the EU has been preparing for another wave of COVID-19 this autumn and this winter. Our actions now will largely determine the future of the pandemic and the level of immunity that can be built up in the population. Member States should continue to coordinate preparedness efforts across the EU in anticipation of the next wave and further roll-out of vaccination programmes. Taking action now will limit pressure on healthcare, the disruption of the economies and the challenges facing society.

Photo Amstelveen
(Photo Etienne Ansotte © EU – 2016)

Margaritis Schinas (1962) Vice-President of the EU Commission with the portfolio of European Commissioner for Promoting the European Way of Life

Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “The pandemic is not over yet. We must now act together in a coordinated and sustained manner to help prevent another wave of serious COVID-19 cases. To this end, it is crucial that all Member States have robust vaccination strategies in place to prepare for autumn and winter, including for the roll-out of the recently authorized modified booster vaccines. The gaps in vaccination coverage should be filled with the highest priority. It is also essential that resilient surveillance systems are put in place to monitor the evolution of the virus, that strategies for reintroducing effective public health measures are in place, if necessary, and that the capacity of health systems is strengthened. To put it plainly, we have to be ready for another challenging season.

Main actions on COVID-19 vaccination. In particular, the Commission encourages Member States to

Photo Amstelveen
(Photo Abdesslam Mirdass/EU – 2022)

Stella Kyriakides (1956) EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety

-Improve the vaccination coverage of the primary vaccination course and the first booster dose in eligible subjects. This is of particular importance for populations at higher risk of serious consequences and for countries with lower vaccination coverage.

– Prioritize the administration of an additional booster dose for specific populations, especially those aged 60 and over and other eligible individuals of any age who are at risk for serious disease.

-Combine COVID-19 and flu vaccination campaigns. Accompany the vaccination with regularly updated and clear communication, based on epidemiological developments, behavioral insights and public perception.

-Ensure clear communication to citizens about the benefits of vaccination.

On September 1, 2022, the Commission, on the recommendation of the European Medicines Agency, authorized BioNTech Pfizer and Moderna’s modified omicron vaccines in the EU. Other measures to be taken with a view to the availability of new and adapted COVID-19 vaccines are

-Development of national vaccination strategies clarifying which vaccines, including the new and modified vaccines, should be administered to which population groups, also with a view to the possible emergence of new variants based on the guidelines to be shortly published by the European Medicines Agency and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

– Ensure sufficient logistical capacity to administer the vaccines once the new and modified vaccines have been delivered.

Actions other than vaccination. The surveillance of respiratory viruses such as influenza, COVID-19 and others is essential to better understand how the virus spreads and evolves. Depending on the epidemiological situation, non-pharmaceutical interventions, for example face masks or limiting the size of meetings, to limit the spread of the virus, remain a crucial part of Member States’ tools. It is important that all Member States are willing to reintroduce public health measures based on clear thresholds. Any measures in schools should be adapted to the educational situation and age group and kept to a minimum to avoid disruption of education.

The Communication also highlights the importance of strong healthcare systems and capacities in all Member States. The preparedness of health systems for outbreaks of infectious diseases and other types of shocks needs to be improved. Further measures should also be taken to support the good mental health of health professionals and the general population.

Member States are also encouraged to join forces to collect up-to-date data on post-COVID diseases and improve the training of health professionals to better identify long-term COVID, especially in primary care.

Furthermore, continued efforts to facilitate free movement in the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic remain crucial, both for people and goods. As regards travel from third countries, the Commission intends to propose shortly a revision of the relevant Council Recommendation to take into account the changed epidemiological situation, increased vaccination across the world and developments in entry requirements in the member states.

Finally, to end the pandemic, it remains critical to support efforts to fight COVID-19 worldwide. The EU will continue to work with international partners to ensure rapid development, economies of scale and equitable distribution of vaccines worldwide.

Background. The COVID-19 summer wave, driven by Omicron BA.4 and BA.5, has shown that the pandemic is not over yet as the virus continues to circulate in Europe and beyond. All member states have lifted most restrictions and their populations are experiencing pandemic fatigue, which can lead to behavioral changes.

This makes it easier for the virus to circulate quickly in the EU, opening the door to the emergence of new variants that can evade immunity, spread more easily or cause more serious symptoms. It is therefore possible that the precious gains made in response to the pandemic will be lost if the virus is not contained and further infections are not prevented.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Commission calls Member States prepare autumn winter

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