The heads of AstraZeneca have warned not to rush too quickly into rolling out a vaccine boosters – as the vaccines minister said around 35million Britons are set to get third doses in a rapid programme beginning later this month.
Nadhim Zahawi said the top-up doses would be crucial in allowing the UK to learn to live with Covid and preventing future lockdowns, and the NHS was aiming to deliver third doses even more rapidly than during the initial rollout this spring – when around 400,000 people were jabbed each day.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said this morning he was ‘very confident’ there will be a booster programme and that he was just waiting on advice on ‘who actually gets it and when’.
That advice will come from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), an independent body which advises the Government on vaccines, which has previously hinted that it will not be recommending a mass booster rollout.
The heads of the AstraZeneca jab have warned that booster jabs may not be needed for everyone in Britain, and a rush to roll it out nationwide risks putting additional strain on the NHS.
Pascal Soriot, chief executive of the company, said the UK remains ‘a few weeks away’ from being able to make a decision on pushing a vaccine booster programme across the country.
Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Soriot, along with Executive Vice President of BioPharmaceuticals R&D, Sir Mene Pangalos, warned that moving ‘too quickly’ to boost the whole adult population would deprive scientists of insights into the effectiveness of two vaccine doses.
Pascal Soriot (left), chief executive of AstraZeneca, said the UK remains ‘a few weeks away’ from being able to make a decision on pushing a vaccine booster programme across the country. Mr Soriot, along with Executive Vice President of BioPharmaceuticals R&D, Sir Mene Pangalos (right), warned that moving ‘too quickly’ to boost the whole adult population would deprive scientists of insights into the effectiveness of two vaccine doses
Around 35million Britons will get third doses in a rapid booster programme beginning later this month, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi (pictured) said yesterday
They add: ‘A third dose for all may be needed, but it may not. Mobilising the NHS for a boosting program that is not needed would potentially add unnecessary burden on the NHS over the long winter months.
‘Because NHS staff and resources are scarce, another national mobilisation would potentially leave us with fewer resources for cancer screenings and the other care provided by doctors and nurses each day.’
The NHS had been primed to offer third doses to over-50s at the start of this week but it was pushed back because the JCVI was waiting for trial data – due in the next few days – before it gives the programme the green light.
So far only 500,000 patients with very weak immune systems have been told they will get third jabs.
The programme would prioritise over-70s, health and social care workers and those with underlying health conditions. All over-50s would also get the third jab.
Pictured: A graph showing the progress of Britain’s Covid vaccine rollout
Pictured: A teenager is given a dose of the coronavirus vaccine at the Reading Festival last month. The NHS is aiming to deliver third doses even more rapidly than during the initial rollout this spring – when around 400,000 people were jabbed each day
Ministers have been criticised for failing to ‘get on with’ giving booster shots, with fears this could allow an autumn surge.
The delay means the UK is lagging behind many leading nations including the US, where an aggressive campaign of boosters has helped curb hospital cases.
n Four in five people aged 16 and over are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, figures by the UK’s four health agencies show.
A total of 43,535,098 second doses have been delivered since the rollout began nine months ago. An estimated 88.8 per cent of people aged 16 and over have had one dose.