Rumours that a third Covid vaccine dose will be rolled out later this year have been confirmed by plans to offer the over-50s and those with underlying health conditions an extra dose before Christmas. Younger people are not expected to be included in the scheme. The Times has the story.
Trials of two options are underway, supervised by Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England.
The first involves vaccines specifically modified to tackle new variants. The second is for a third shot of one of the three versions already in use: Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca or Moderna. While the approved vaccines successfully tackle the Kent variant, the amount of protection they offer against others, such as that from South Africa, is weaker.
The Times has been told that early findings from the trials have raised Government hopes that the two approaches will be able to nullify any threat from new and existing variants.
It is also thought that it will only be necessary to give a third jab to the over-50s and those with underlying health conditions, who are at higher risk. One way of delivering the booster would be at the same time as the annual flu jab, but in the other arm.
A senior Government minister said: “We will have a lot to say about the booster programme soon. It’s looking really positive so far.
“We think that the level of protection in the population to any variant will be so high that by Christmas, Covid should have just faded away into the background like any other illness in circulation. So much so that we don’t think there will be any need to give a booster shot to younger people because transmission will have got so low.” …
Last night Matt Hancock announced £29 million to build state-of-the-art laboratories to speed up tests on the effectiveness of new vaccines and booster jabs. The money will allow the Government’s facilities in Porton Down to significantly expand the number of blood samples they analyse for antibodies from 700 a week to 3,000.
Nadhim Zahawi, the Vaccines Minister, said the multi-million pound investment in testing facilities at Porton Down would “future-proof” the U.K. against new variants of Covid. “We need to make sure we have vaccine variants that are ready for any virus variant that may escape,” he told Sky News.
The Government’s concern about Covid variants will no doubt have been fuelled by those SAGE scientists, including Professor Neil Ferguson, who believe that a “more normal” summer is possible but that variants continue to pose a threat.
The Times report is worth reading in full.