European Union experts believe existing vaccines against coronavirus are effective against the new fast-spreading strain identified in Britain, Germany’s health minister said Sunday.
“According to everything we know so far” the new strain “has no impact on the vaccines”, which remain “just as effective”, Jens Spahn told public broadcaster ZDF, citing “talks among experts of European authorities”.
Spahn was referring especially to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is already being administered in countries including the US and UK and which is on the brink of receiving approval from the European Medicines Agency.
A health ministry spokesman said the EU experts’ meeting had taken place on Sunday and included representatives of Berlin’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for public health.
A number of EU nations have banned air travel from Britain in response to the new strain, while France said it would block people arriving from the UK and all freight unless it is unaccompanied.
Within Britain, London has announced tougher infection control measures affecting some parts of the country.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Saturday the variant could be up to 70 percent more infectious than the main strain, based on preliminary data.
The World Health Organization said that nine cases have been detected in Denmark and one each in the Netherlands and Australia, while Italy said late Sunday it too had detected a single case in a person returning from Britain.
Germany, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, has organised a Monday meeting of experts to discuss the bloc’s response to the new threat, the health ministry spokesman said.
The meeting will be held under the European Council’s IPCR crisis response scheme, which can be invoked for health, environmental or terrorist emergencies among others.