'Promising' signs for Covid-19 vaccines' efficiency against mutant strains: EMA head


As the EU's 27 member states scramble to contain the spread of new "mutant" strains of the Covid-19 virus, the head of the European Medicines Agency, Emer Cooke, tells FRANCE 24 that there are "promising" results from early studies into how well existing vaccines work against the new variants. The so-called "UK variant", otherwise known as strain B.1.1.7, transmits more easily from person to person and there are predictions that it will become the dominant strain within weeks.


EMA Executive Director Emer Cooke says that ongoing preliminary studies look "promising" – and that the EMA has asked vaccine producers to plan studies to prove their results "conclusively".

Meanwhile, a growing list of European states are casting doubt on the efficacy, in people aged over 65, of the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca – one of the three authorised vaccines in the EU.

Health authorities in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden have all recommended the jab only be used in adults aged up to 65.

When asked whether the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab is safe in over-65s, Cooke tells FRANCE 24: "We've looked at the immunity issue across different age groups – and the safety issues, because the safety profiles were looked at in adults over 65. And we don't see a reason to say it should not be recommended for adults over 65."

The EMA head also tackles vaccine hesitancy and the questions of how the vaccines were developed so quickly, and whether they are safe – underlining that "the processes that have been followed are the standard processes for any vaccine".  

"It's important to remember that there was an enormous amount of multi-stakeholder engagement to really mobilise the processes necessary to focus in on the virus, to do the development process, to make sure that manufacturing capacity was available. And we have very, very large data sets… Which gives you a very good understanding of the efficacy and safety in the populations," she explains.

Produced by Isabelle Romero and Perrine Desplats

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning

Take international news everywhere with you! Download the France 24 app