Vaccination campaign continues to gain momentum

"It is gratifying that another vaccine is available in Europe." This stated the MEP and health policy spokesman for the largest group in the European Parliament (EPP-Christian Democrats), Dr. med. Peter Liese, after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) today issued a positive risk assessment for the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson. The vaccine was already approved by the EMA for Europe in March and was due to be shipped last week. However, following reports of possible severe side effects, the shipment to Europe was halted. Previously, U.S. health officials had recommended a stop of vaccinations.

"The side effects need to be taken very seriously, but first, they are extremely rare and second, they can be treated. It is important that people who have signs of side effects, for example, severe headaches after the fourth day or noticeable bleedings, present themselves immediately to a doctor or even to a hospital. Overall, the risk from Covid-19 is definitely greater than the risk of vaccine side effects," Liese said.

According to the doctor and MEP, the incident shows that proper surveillance of drugs and vaccines after placing it on the market (pharmacovigilance) is even more urgent than normally in this case. Behind the side effects, Liese suspects the vaccine type. "The side effects seem to be related to the principle of the vector vaccine, as they are found in both AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson if you look carefully. This is another argument for not launching the Russian vaccine, Sputnik V, with an emergency approval, but for carefully reviewing it. The European Medicines Agency looks at the original data and looks behind the scenes, and only if it gives green light, the vaccination with Sputnik would be a possibility in the EU," said Liese.

By promptly vaccinating with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which, unlike the other approved vaccines, requires only one dose for full protection, Liese anticipates a further increase in the rate of vaccination. It is possible that, as with AstraZeneca's vaccine, some member states will recommend that certain population groups will not be vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson initially. In some states, AstraZeneca's vaccine has been given in recent weeks to those groups of people for whom it was recommended, without complications on a large scale.

"This could also greatly accelerate vaccination with Johnson & Johnson. After today's decision by the EMA, I am very optimistic that it will be possible to vaccinate so many people in Europe in the summer that community immunity (also called herd immunity by some) will develop. If enough people get vaccinated, the virus will eventually have no chance. In the coming weeks, the focus will no longer be on the vaccine shortage, but on whether the vaccine is being vaccinated efficiently and whether enough people are getting vaccinated. If this works well, Corona will be much less scary in just a few months. That's why it's important to be cautious now and stick to the measures, because if someone dies from Covid-19 shortly before the vaccination and shortly before the end of the pandemic, it's particularly tragic," Liese concluded.