Tens of millions of Britons will be offered a Pfizer booster jab this autumn as the vaccine has proved to be the most effective against the Delta variant.
The booster scheme, which was announced earlier this year, is set to start in September and should see 23million over-50s, vulnerable Britons and NHS and care home staff offered a third dose.
Extra vaccines would be rolled out in two stages — prioritising those most at risk of Covid, before the programme is extended.
While patients were initially expected to be offered the jab they were originally inoculated with, it is understood all patients will be offered the Pfizer jab as it has proven to be the most effective against the Delta variant.
The Department of Health has yet to confirm the official details of the booster scheme, plans of which were first shared by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) in June.
The JCVI is expected to issue its final advice in regards to the booster scheme in the coming months.
A senior government source also told the Times that those who received the AstraZeneca vaccine would ‘be getting an mRNA booster’.
MRNA is a type of vaccine and applies to the Pfizer and Oxford jabs while AstraZeneca is not an mRNA jab.
A UK Government-backed study published earlier this year found that mixing and matching Covid vaccines may result in higher protection against the virus.
Although antibodies are just one part of the immune response, the Oxford University researchers said the findings strongly suggested the approach could enhance immunity.
But it is understood the mix and match approach is not going to be used in the short term more broadly because there is a ‘strong supply’ of each vaccine type.
A senior HSE source told the Times: ‘Currently there’s no need for it. Currently we have plenty of vaccines. The amount of vaccine isn’t an issue at all. There’s no plan to do it. It’s not under immediate consideration, but I wouldn’t rule it out.’
The Government said analysis has shown that the Pfizer vaccine is 96 per cent effective against the Delta variant while the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is 92 per cent effective against hospitalisation after 2 doses.
Pictured: A young person receives a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab at a vaccination centre for young people and students at the Hunter Street Health Centre in London on June 5
Which jab combinations provided the best protection?
The early results from the Com-Cov trial, published today in the Lancet, looked at the efficacy of either two doses of Pfizer, two of AstraZeneca, or one of them followed by the other.
All second doses were given four weeks apart and the trial recruited 830 volunteers who were aged 50 and above. All combinations worked well, priming the immune system.
— AstraZeneca’s vaccine, followed by Pfizer’s, induced higher levels of antibodies and T cells than vice versa.
— Both antibodies and T cells, a type of white blood cell, play a crucial role in defending against Covid.
— The mix-match approach produced more antibodies than two regular doses of AstraZeneca’s, no matter which way round the jabs were given.
— The largest antibody levels were induced after two doses of Pfizer, and the highest T cell response was from AstraZeneca’s followed by Pfizer.
A study published this week also showed that a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine could offer strong protection against the Delta variant.
Research showed that antibody levels increased five-fold among people ages 18 to 55 who were given the booster shot.
The third dose was especially effecting for the elderly, with antibody levels spiking 11-fold among people aged 65 to 85 who had already received the standard two doses.
In the slides published online, the researchers wrote there there is ‘estimated potential for up to 100-fold increase in Delta neutralization post-dose three compared to pre-dose three.’
The booster roll-out will coincide with the annual influenza inoculation programme, which health officials said will be vital this winter amid warnings of a difficult flu season.
Immunity gained from Covid jabs last for at least six months in the ‘majority’ of cases, but there are fears this could fade later in the year which could trigger a spike in hospitalisations and deaths.
An Oxford University trial looking at booster doses suggested a third shot six months after the second could restore peak immunity against Covid.
It comes as the week-on-week rate of Covid cases fell yesterday for the tenth day in a row with 26,144 infections marking a 17.8 per cent fall while deaths also fell to 71.
The latest data from Public Health England and Cambridge University suggests that about 60,000 deaths, 22 million infections and 52,600 hospitalisations have been prevented by vaccines.
The Government plans to lure young people in for their vaccinations with the promise of cut-price taxis and takeaways, as Boris Johnson tries to tackle the relatively low take-up among the under-30s.
Uber, Deliveroo and Pizza Pilgrims are among the companies in discussion with the Government about offering incentives as part of the ‘Jab 18-30’ drive.
So far, only two-thirds of people in that age bracket in England have received a first dose since they became eligible in June, compared with 88.4 per cent across all age groups, meaning more than three million 18-to-30-year-olds remain unjabbed.