Brussels, Feb 1 (IANS) Top officials of the European Union (EU) held discussions with drug giants about the rapid development and production of vaccines specially against the new variants of the coronavirus.

The emergence of variants of concern “raises the imminent threat of reduced efficacy of recently approved vaccines,” and it is crucial to prepare for the appearance of such variants, the European Commission said in a statement on Sunday.

The video conference was held by the Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, with CEOs of the pharmaceutical companies BioNTech/Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, CureVac and Sanofi, all of which have signed agreements with the EU for vaccines supply.

EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton, von der Leyen’s coronavirus special advisors Peter Piot and Moncef Slaoui, as well as the Executive Director of the European Medicines Agency, Emer Cook, were also present.

The discussion explored requirements for very rapid development, manufacturing and regulatory approval of vaccines for Covid-19 variants in the EU, according to the statement.

The meeting took place amid increasing concerns over the limit of capacity and shortage of supply in the EU and the seemingly lower efficacy of some vaccines towards the new variants.

On January 29, Piot had said biotechnology company Novavax reported positive results from its large UK trials with overall efficacy of 89 per cent, but it is 86 per cent effective against the variant first identified in the UK and only 60 per cent effective against the variant detected in South Africa.

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