EU member states are preparing for an expected increase in Covid cases in autumn and winter, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakidou, said in an interview for the Financial Times. Kyriakidou emphasised the need to strengthen the rate of vaccinations, saying that “there is no time to lose”.

The health ministries must redouble their efforts regarding vaccinations this summer, Kyriakidou said, despite the understandable pandemic fatigue of the population. Brussels is in fact warning of “vaccination fatigue” and urging a new vaccination campaign.

“We need to increase vaccinations, we need to expand coverage of booster vaccines and we need to ensure that health systems are ready to deal with future waves,” Kyriakidou said in the interview. “I am concerned that vaccinations have stagnated over the last few months and we may have seen contact tracing and diagnostic testing not carried out intensively enough,” she added.

The Commissioner advocated for measures including year-round case-tracing and contact-tracing, as well adequate treatment provision, and preparation for the return of masking and social distancing. However, she focussed on the sluggish pace of the vaccination campaigns as a key concern, given the short time period until the start of the expected cold and flu season.

In early July, the European health services recommended extending eligibility for second booster doses of Covid-19 vaccines to people over 60 years of age. Despite this urging, less than 65 per cent of adults received the booster and 15 per cent remain unvaccinated with any vaccine at all.

Kyriakidou urged over 60-year-olds and vulnerable groups to get the extra booster shot right away to ensure they are protected from the ongoing wave. Asked if she thought there would be a need for adapted vaccines for the latest variants, Kyriakidou maintained that existing vaccines are effective against the versions of the virus in circulation.

The sluggish pace of vaccinations could be partly attributed to people holding out until the arrival on the market of adapted vaccines, which could be approved in September.

The stalled vaccination rate, Kyriakidou speculated, was due to a number of reasons, including a sense that the pandemic may be on the decline or over, as well as a sense of “vaccination fatigue”. She noted that this attitude may come from “a lot of talk that existing vaccines do not protect” but she reiterated that people must be vaccinated “as soon as possible” with the currently available vaccines as “there is no time to lose”.