The Hague (AFP)

The administration of two doses of the vaccine is essential to protect against the Delta variant of the coronavirus, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Wednesday.

The European regulator has also called on member states of the European Union to speed up their vaccination programs, as the highly contagious Delta variant is causing epidemic outbreaks all over the world.

"Preliminary data suggests that the two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine (...) are necessary to provide adequate protection against the Delta variant," the EMA said in a statement.

"Compliance with the recommended vaccination schedule is essential to benefit from the highest level of protection," added the EMA, which recommends the administration of two doses for the Pfizer / BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines.

The Delta variant of the coronavirus, initially spotted in India, will account for 90% of Covid-19 cases by the end of August, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in a statement.

However, according to the ECDC, in ten countries of the European Union, nearly 30% or more of people over 80 have not yet completed the recommended vaccination program.

The Delta variant could "seriously hamper efforts to control the pandemic," the EMA added, saying "additional efforts are needed" in some countries to protect vulnerable people and the elderly in closed settings.

Several countries have recently decided to tighten their health system, in particular to encourage people who are still reluctant to be vaccinated.

There are also good scientific reasons to believe that mixing different brands of sera between a first and second vaccination was safe and effective against Covid, the EMA added.

The use of such a vaccination strategy "could allow populations to be protected more quickly and to make better use of available vaccine stocks".

The EMA said, however, that it was too early to confirm whether a booster would be needed as there was not yet enough data from vaccination campaigns and ongoing studies.

© 2021 AFP