Pensioners may have to get a vaccine booster shot in August as minimise the risk posed by a winter wave, a Government vaccine advisor has warned.
Prof Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, suggested the “top up” dose would be needed as soon as possible.
This would both protect the elderly against a new variant and act as a safety net amid uncertainty over how long immunity lasts after getting a jab.
The top medic suggested that rolling out the third jab in August or September, rather than later in the year, would prepare Britain for a potential “large third wave”.
“We certainly don’t want to see a winter like we’ve seen this winter, and if we’ve got new variants circulating and we’ve got dropping levels of immunity due to the vaccination, then that becomes an imperative to do a booster,” he told the British Medical Journal.
“I think we’re likely to make a bold decision to recommend a booster dose, even if we haven’t got all the evidence of the necessity, just because I think the consequences of not immunising with the booster dose are so big.
“If it’s proved that it’s needed months later it may be too late.”
The UK’s national statistician said he had “no doubt” there will be a further wave of Covid-19 infections in the autumn.
Prof Sir Ian Diamond, head of the Office for National Statistics, welcomed the vaccine roll-out programme.
But he added: “We need also to recognise that this is a virus that isn’t going to go away.
“And I have no doubt that in the autumn there will be a further wave of infections.”
He suggested there is a lot of regional variation on the amount of antibodies people have.
England’s chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty predicted last week the UK would experience another surge of cases at some point.
He “strongly advised” against any move to speed up the timetable for easing lockdown restrictions – saying indoor mixing already involved “significant risks”.
Please add to vaccines run Millions of vulnerable people with underlying health conditions like cancer, diabetes and heart disease are being urged to book their Covid jabs.
Charities including Cancer Research UK, Mencap and the Terrence Higgins Trust have written an open letter to those in priority group six to reassure them vaccines are safe.
More than half of the seven million people in that group have had their first dose.