The Government has been discussing the possibility of booster vaccines since earlier this year, but plans became more cemented when Sajid Javid replaced Matt Hancock as Health Secretary in June. Mr Javid has stressed the importance of a third jab, saying it is essential for “freedom in this country” and to help the UK “learn to live with the virus”. Express.co.uk reveals everything we know about the booster jabs so far, and what will happen if you had the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The Government is predicted to announce the rolling out a booster dose of the Covid vaccine today.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has endorsed boosters for everyone over 50 and patients at most risk of serious illness from the disease.
The rollout is expected to start in the coming weeks, with the elderly and vulnerable offered the booster first.
There has been plenty of debate about whether boosters are necessary or not, but the JVCI is advising the Government to go ahead with the scheme.
Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi had said the country is in “a very strong place” to start the boosters campaign in September.
On BBC Breakfast, Mr Zahawi said jabs would go to the over 70s and those most at risk first before being offered to those over 50.
Which Covid vaccine will I get?
In a report issued this morning, the JCVI says it advises “a preference for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the booster programme, regardless of which vaccine brand someone received for their primary doses.”
This is because data from the COV-BOOST trial indicated that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is “well-tolerated as a third dose and provides a strong booster response.”
The document adds: “Alternatively, a half dose of the Moderna vaccine may be offered.”
What if you had AstraZeneca?
The AstraZeneca vaccine is no longer offered to anyone pregnant or under 40.
Everyone should have the same vaccine for the first two doses, unless they experienced serious side effects after the first dose. But, what about the booster?
The JCVI announced today: “Where mRNA vaccines cannot be offered, for example due to allergies, the AstraZeneca vaccine may be considered for those who received it previously.”
In April, the Department of Health and Social Care ordered another 60 million doses of the vaccine specifically for the booster campaign to be used alongside the other vaccines already purchased.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, Chair of COVID-19 Immunisation for the JCVI, said: “The UK’s COVID-19 vaccination programme has been hugely successful in protecting people against hospitalisation and death, and the main aim of the booster programme is to prolong that protection and reduce serious disease as we head towards the colder months.
“The JCVI is advising that a booster dose be offered to the more vulnerable, to maximise individual protection ahead of an unpredictable winter. Most of these people will also be eligible for the annual flu vaccine and we strongly advise them to take up this offer as well.”
Is vaccine mixing safe?
Uruguay, Cambodia and Thailand, for example, are mixing brands of vaccine.
The US, however, is not – those who received two doses in Pfizer or Moderna in the USA will be given a third of the same.
However, those who had the Johnson and Johnson in the USA won’t be given a second dose yet.
In Ireland, brands will not be mixed and those who had the single dose of AstraZeneca but didn’t have the second dose are being offered Pfizer or Moderna.
Vaccine mixing will be allowed in the UK, but more details will be announced in the press conference with Mr Johnson today.
The Prime Minister is expected to announce the autumn and winter plan today.
In a statement earlier today, Mr Johnson said the virus has a “natural advantage” in the colder months, so a booster scheme would “protect the gains we have made.”
Mr Johnson said he believes that while pandemic is “far from over”, the “phenomenal vaccine programme, new treatments and testing” will mean the UK is “able to live with the virus without significant restrictions on our freedoms”.
The flu vaccine is offered every year on the NHS in the autumn or early winter, and the Covid booster won’t be organised too differently.
Experts are concerned that flu levels could be very high this winter and coronavirus cases could increase.
For this reason and for convenience, the Covid booster is expected to be “co-administered” with the flu jab in some instances.
Mr Zahawi said: “This is probably the last piece of jigsaw to allow us to transition this virus from pandemic to endemic and I hope by next year we’ll be in a position to deal with this virus with an annual inoculation programme as we do with flu.”