Speed is of the essence to protect citizens from new COVID-19 outbreaks this fall, but the process to distribute more vaccines must be accelerated, according to pharmaceutical industry representatives.
"Today the production capacity of COVID-19 vaccines far exceeds the number of doses that can be administered," Thomas Triomphe, executive vice-president of vaccines at Sanofi, warned while addressing members of the European Parliament.
"The challenge is no longer the vaccine supply, but the capacity to successfully deliver national vaccination campaigns, especially in adults and the elderly."
Sanofi is one of the companies that has developed vaccines adapted to the Omicron variant, now waiting for approval.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) last week gave the green light to the new BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna versions of COVID vaccines, with the European Commission soon asking member states to outline their national strategies.
But Brussels is warning that new measures must be taken at the same time to avoid a new surge of COVID-19, including combining coronavirus & flu vaccinations, ensuring sufficient logistical capacity to deliver vaccines and starting new public awareness campaigns to inform the general public.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has since forecast that, following a quiet summer, several European countries could see "increasing trends" in terms of cases and hospital admissions.
According to MEP Kathleen Van Brempt, who chairs the special committee on COVID-19, low vaccination rates in some countries are a major concern.
"I think that the best advice we can give today to the general public is to stay alert, keep safe for yourself, get vaccinated, especially when you are over 65 years old and if you belong to a more vulnerable group," Van Brempt told Euronews.
"It would be good if more people get vaccinated. The more people are vaccinated, the easier it will get and the less restrictions we will face, but it all depends on how we act according to these recommendations."