EU approves new dual-strain Covid vaccines in time for autumn booster campaigns

The European Medicines Agency has approved two new Covid vaccines that are designed to protect against both the original strain of the virus and the new Omicron variants.

EU approves new dual-strain Covid vaccines in time for autumn booster campaigns

Both Pfizer and Moderna had submitted applications for their dual-strain vaccines to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in mid-July, with the agency announcing on Thursday that both had been approved.

The vaccines target both the Omicron variant and the original strain of Covid, but do not specifically target the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants that have emerged as the global dominant strains in recent months.

The EMA approval comes after the US approved both vaccines on Wednesday, while the UK approved the Moderna dual-strain vaccine in mid-August.

Within the EU, countries have the choice of accepting the EMA recommendation straight out, or asking their own domestic health regulator to give its approval.

The dual-strain vaccines are widely expected to be used in Covid booster shot campaigns this autumn, which many countries plan to combine with the annual flu vaccination drive. 

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France to reinstate unvaccinated healthcare workers

France's health minister said on Sunday that healthcare workers who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 would be able to return to work starting mid-May.

France to reinstate unvaccinated healthcare workers

France’s Minister of Health, François Braun, announced on Sunday that non-vaccinated healthcare workers and caregivers (les soignants) would be able to return to work starting mid-May.

Braun told the local newspaper in Seine-et-Marne, Le Pays Briard, that “the discussions have taken place, and the plans are ready” for the reintegration of non-vaccinated workers. He told the French newspaper that he would sign the decree “at the beginning of next week”, with implementation to be followed in mid-May.

The suspension of healthcare workers who were not vaccinated against Covid-19 has been in effect since autumn 2021. However, in recent weeks, French health authorities, like the Haute Autorité de santé (HAS), had begun recommending that the vaccine obligation be lifted. 

READ MORE: France launches next Covid vaccine booster campaign

On March 30th, the HAS reviewed its previous recommendations and shifted course, advising that vaccination against Covid-19 instead be “strongly recommended” rather than required.

The body also specified that “lifting a vaccination obligation for professionals does not call into question the benefits of being vaccinated”.

The new ruling will impact several thousand healthcare workers who refused to comply with Covid-19 vaccination requirements in 2021. This led to about 4,000 healthcare professionals being suspended, representing about 0.3 percent of the total hospital staff in the country. 

The compulsory vaccination of healthcare workers will be the last of the Covid-related rules to be relaxed or scrapped after requirements for a vaccine pass or health pass and compulsory mask rules were dropped in 2022. 

Nevertheless, vaccine recommendations remain, particularly for those in high-risk groups. In April, the French health ministry said that new Covid vaccine boosters would be available to vulnerable people, with the vaccine campaign primarily aimed at residents in EHPAD care homes.