STOCKHOLM, June 7 (Xinhua) -- The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Wednesday recommended updating the antigen composition of COVID-19 vaccines to target the currently dominant Omicron XBB strains in autumn 2023.
In a joint statement, the agencies said that although the currently authorized vaccines continue to be effective at preventing hospitalization, severe disease and death, protection against the virus declines over time as new SARS-CoV-2 variants emerge.
The EMA's Emergency Task Force recommends updating the vaccines to target the XBB strains -- a subgroup of Omicron -- that have become dominant in Europe and other parts of the world.
The agencies also note that monovalent vaccines -- those targeting only one strain, such as XBB.1.5 -- are a reasonable choice to provide protection against currently dominant and emerging strains.
They said that people aged 60 years and above, those with weakened immune systems and underlying conditions putting them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 irrespective of age and those who are pregnant are recommended groups for vaccination this autumn.
Vaccination of healthcare workers should also be considered because of their likely increased exposure to new waves of SARS-CoV-2 and their key role in the functioning of healthcare systems.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on May 5 that the COVID-19 pandemic no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), the WHO's highest alert level.