The UK’s vaccine advisory body is set to decide whether booster doses against Covid-19 are needed this autumn. Prof Dame Sarah Gilbert told the BBC that offering a third booster dose to millions of people was “a complex decision”, as the vaccines are still providing strong protection, a year on from the initial two doses.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has already said a third top-up dose should be offered to people with severely weakened immune systems, which accounts for up to half a million people in the UK. But it has not decided if booster doses are needed to extend protection in larger numbers of people at high risk from Covid-19, including those normally eligible for a flu jab.
Prof Gilbert also said the world needed more doses and more vaccine supplies, so there didn’t need to be a choice between vaccinating one country over another. “More doses are becoming available and we need to focus on getting those doses to countries that really need them,” she said, adding that many African countries had only vaccinated 2% of their population.
Interim advice issued by the JCVI in July suggested more than 30 million people should receive a booster dose, including all adults over 50. The UK medicines regulator (MHRA) has approved the use of Pfizer and AstraZeneca as Covid booster vaccines, paving the way for a rollout ahead of the winter.
Prof Sir Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, agreed there is a “fire raging all around the world with huge pressure on health systems in many, many countries”. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the UK had a “moral obligation” to help other countries, adding: “There is such a big risk, morally from our perspective – there’s a risk to trade, there’s a risk to economies, but also these are our friends and colleagues who need to be protected, and we are losing them every day that goes by.” Sir Andrew also said the UK still had high levels of protection from the virus, despite the fall in levels of people’s immune response after having had the vaccine. The JCVI needs to look at the issue of who is ending up in hospital after being infected as part of its considerations.
So there we have it. Should there be a mass booster vaccination programme for the over 50s, or should the programme be limited to the half a million people with weakened immune systems and donate excess doses to other countries? Only time will tell. click full source.