Brits Told to Expect to Take a Third Vaccine Jab in the Autumn
Permanent vaccination complex
A health minister today signalled that millions of Britons can expect to get a third injection of Covid-19 vaccine this year to halt the South African mutation and other new variants.
Ed Argar said an autumn booster was being developed to “outwit” a virus that is constantly evolving to beat human defences.
The development came as South Africa suspended its mass roll-out of the AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccine following a small-scale study of younger volunteers that suggested it did not prevent transmission of the new variant or mild-to-moderate illness. Experts warned that the South African strain could prolong social-distancing measures.
Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, told Times Radio: “I can’t see us having another Cheltenham Festival with no regulations again. I can’t see us having massive weddings with people coming from all over the world.”
Danny Altmann, Professor of Immunology at Imperial College London, said people must be patient and not be “jumping up and down asking when we can ease lockdown”.
Highly contagious new strains also put a question mark over ambitions to achieve herd immunity within months. Professor Shabir Madhi, from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, suggested the focus should shift from the aim of herd immunity to the protection of all “at risk” individuals against severe disease.
The South African variant has already been identified in at least 147 cases in Britain and “surge testing” is being carried out in hotspots, including in three London boroughs — Ealing, Haringey and Merton.
Mr Argar stressed that the Oxford jab still works on the Kent mutation, the fastest-spreading strain in the UK, and there was no evidence that it does not prevent serious illness and fatalities from the South African variant, which meant the jab being rolled out to millions of Britons should still save lives and prevent hospitals being swamped.
But he indicated that an autumn dose is increasingly likely to protect against new strains. “It’s in the nature of how these viruses behave, they mutate,” he told Sky News. “They try to outwit us.
“What we would all expect is every year we have our flu booster jabs, or our flu jabs, it would not be unreasonable to suggest something similar here.”
He went on: “They’re already working on identifying what those new variants might be, to update the vaccine, so it continues to keep pace with a virus that will always try to outwit us. We have got to make sure we get ahead of the game and outwit it.”
Mr Argar later told LBC that the rollout of the vaccine was on track to get every adult dosed by the summer. “By autumn we will be able to do those additional jabs for boosters if required.”
Professor Salim Abdool Karim, head of South Africa’s ministerial advisory committee on Covid-19, said there was still hope that the Oxford dose will protect older age groups from serious illness. He told Times Radio: “Our problem is we don’t know if the AstraZeneca vaccine will be effective in preventing severe disease and hospitalisation in the population. That’s why we felt we should hold until that information becomes available.”
He added: “We are planning on rolling it out. This is just a temporary delay, but the way in which we’re going to roll it out is going to be different. We’re taking a two-step approach, the first is to vaccinate around 100,000 individuals and assess what the hospitalisation rates are. Once we’re confident the hospitalization rates are low with the AstraZeneca vaccine, then we proceed to roll out the remaining million doses we have.”
Source: The Evening Standard