booster vaccine

Booster Jab Invitations to Be Sent to 1.5 Million People in England This Week

The booster vaccine roll-out is well underway in England, despite warnings that this could help to cause a permanent state of lockdown. 1.5 million invitations are being sent to people – starting with those aged 50 and over, as well as to the clinically vulnerable and healthcare workers – this week to book their third dose. Sky News has the story.

Texts will be sent out on Monday, while letters will be posted to those who are eligible for a third coronavirus vaccine dose later in the week, NHS England said.

Around 1.5 million people will be contacted and encouraged to use the National Booking Service.

Those eligible for booster jabs include those aged 50 and over, people living and working in care homes for the elderly and frontline health and social care workers.

Booster shots will also be available to those who are clinically extremely vulnerable and anyone aged 16 to 65 in an at-risk group for Covid.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said this week that people should receive their booster dose at least six months after they received their second Covid jab.

The JCVI also said half doses of the Moderna jab could be used as an alternative.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said boosters will “strengthen the wall of defence” created by the vaccines.

Ministers say the success of the booster vaccine roll-out (and of the roll-out of vaccines for children) will determine whether further restrictions – including mask mandates, vaccine passports and possibly another lockdown – should be imposed this winter.

The Sky News report is worth reading in full.

U.S. FDA Recommends Against Booster Vaccines for Under-65s

The advisory committee of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says booster jabs should be given to the over-65s and the clinically vulnerable but has voted 16-2 against recommending additional doses for everyone else aged 16 and over. MailOnline has the story.

Members said said [sic] there was not enough evidence that a third dose was safe and effective for use in people under age 65.

The FDA is not bound to follow the advisory group’s recommendations but the agency rarely goes against the guidance of VRBPAC.

The next step before the FDA can issue authorisation is a recommendation for approved by the advisory committee for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Pfizer had previously submitted data that the company claimed show its vaccine’s efficacy falls by about six percent every two months following the second and final dose.

But many scientists, including senior officials at the FDA, disagree and argue that the vaccines are still highly effective at preventing severe illness and death.

Last month, boosters were approved for immunocompromised Americans who had received either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine after data showed they were less likely to develop high antibody levels after two doses.

At least 2.04 million people in the U.S. have received booster doses as of Friday, according to data from the CDC.

The White House also announced last month booster shots would become available for all Americans starting on September 20th due to data suggesting waning efficacy of the initial shots. …

Dr. Phil Krause, Deputy Director of the FDA’s Office of Vaccines Research and Review, said that Pfizer’s data [suggesting that people who received booster doses had high levels of protection] had yet to be independently reviewed by experts.

“One of the issues in this is that much of the data that’s been presented and being discussed today is not peer-reviewed and has not been reviewed by FDA,” he said.

FDA and CDC officials have previously expressed to [sic] their doubts to the White House about the need for extra doses.

Worth reading in full.

Vaccine Passports, Mask Mandates and Another Lockdown All on the Cards If Covid Infections Don’t Stay Low This Winter

Just days after it led the public into believing that plans for vaccine passports were off the table, the Government has announced that they will be introduced – along with mask mandates and potentially another full lockdown – if booster jabs and vaccines for healthy teenagers fail to keep Covid infections down this winter. Laying out its new plans, the Government said it is “committed to taking whatever action is necessary to protect the NHS”. MailOnline has the story.

Fronting a press conference alongside Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance, the Prime Minister insisted that the U.K. was “incomparably” better placed to deal with the disease this year.

He said he hoped the situation could be kept stable with more jabs and the public behaving sensibly – although ministers have made clear another lockdown cannot be completely ruled out.

Professor Whitty gave a more downbeat assessment saying that infections were “high” relative to last year, and the NHS was under “extreme pressure” even though vaccines were helping significantly.

Meanwhile, Sir Patrick seemed to send a thinly-veiled message to Mr. Johnson by saying that when it comes to measures to stem cases the lesson was “you have to go earlier than you want to, you have to go harder than you want to”. …

Earlier, Sajid Javid was heckled by Tories admitting that ministers can only give Britons the “best possible chance” of avoiding brutal curbs.

In a statement to MPs, he stressed that vaccines can help “build defences’ against the disease, with boosters for the over-50s and jabs for under-16s starting next week.

But Mr Javid was hit with howls of rage from Conservatives in the Commons as he said the blueprint includes the ‘Plan B’ of making masks compulsory “in certain settings”, more working from home and social distancing if the NHS is under threat.

Vaccine passports will be kept “in reserve” and could be introduced in England with a week’s notice, even though they will not go ahead from next month as originally intended. …

The Winter Plan document lays out the details of ‘Plan A’ and ‘Plan B’. But although it does not go into detail about other contingencies, it states that further steps cannot be ruled out.

“While the Government expects that, with strong engagement from the public and businesses, these contingency measures should be sufficient to reverse a resurgence in autumn or winter, the nature of the virus means it is not possible to give guarantees,” the document says.

“The Government remains committed to taking whatever action is necessary to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed but more harmful economic and social restrictions would only be considered as a last resort.”

Worth reading in full.

English Patients Could Get Routine Annual Covid Jabs at Same Time as They Get Flu Vaccinations, Says Nadhim Zahawi

The media focus is currently centred on the booster jabs that will be given this year – starting with the over-50s and care workers – but the Government is already looking to the booster vaccine roll-outs of the future. Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi says that English patients could get routine annual Covid jabs at the same time as they get their flu vaccinations. The Guardian has the story.

Scientists have warned that the NHS is likely to be under significant pressure from other seasonal illnesses as well as Covid infections.

Zahawi said he hoped the booster programme would be the “last piece of the jigsaw” to allow society to continue through the winter without lockdowns.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he said: “Where possible we will try and co-administer – with one caveat – with flu. GPs and pharmacies, which are the backbone of the vaccination programme, can rapidly vaccinate lots of people.

“This is probably the last piece of the jigsaw to allow us to transition this virus from pandemic to endemic and I hope by next year we will be in a position to deal with this virus with an annual inoculation programme as we do flu.” …

Boris Johnson is on Tuesday to confirm the start of a booster jabs programme for the over-50s, a day after Government scientists finally approved vaccinations for older schoolchildren. [Why finally? Why were they supposed to give the green light?]

Worth reading in full.

Government Hopes to Begin Booster Vaccine Roll-Out in Next Fortnight

The NHS is ready to launch a booster Covid vaccine roll-out in the next fortnight and is waiting for the ‘green light’ from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) – not that the group’s advice on the vaccination of children has been duly welcomed. The i has the story.

The JCVI is meeting on Thursday to review the latest data on the effect of giving a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine to people who have already had two.

Ministers and NHS bosses had been hoping to start the boosters rollout on Monday this week before the committee delayed its final decision on which groups should be offered a third jab.

They are now expecting an announcement within days – allowing the health service to call up elderly and vulnerable people for a jab almost immediately afterwards. 

A senior Government official told i: “The NHS is ready to move very quickly once a decision is made, the main delay would be contacting everyone who is eligible.”

There is a chance the campaign will be able to start as soon as next week, although the week after is currently seen as more likely.

The planned NHS timetable would see as many as 35 million jabs given out in the next three and a half months, similar to the rate of the original vaccines rollout, allowing for it to be complete by Christmas. Unlike at the start of this year, there are no significant restrictions on the supply available to the U.K.

It remains unknown whether everyone over-50 and all the clinically vulnerable will be eligible for a booster, or whether they are going to be restricted to the oldest groups and those most at risk from a coronavirus infection.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he was “confident” that the booster programme would be launched this month but that the Government was waiting for advice from the JCVI for final details.

He said: “I’m very confident there will be a booster programme but in terms of who actually gets it and when, we’re waiting for final advice, which could come across certainly in the next few days from the JCVI. We need to see that advice. I’m confident that we can start the booster programme this month.”

The JCVI will advise on issues such as whether people should get the same type of coronavirus vaccine as previous doses or different ones.

Worth reading in full.

Booster Jabs Risk Permanent State of Lockdown, Says Professor Sunetra Gupta

Sunetra Gupta, Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology at the University of Oxford and a founding member of the Great Barrington Declaration, says there is no case for a full roll-out of Covid vaccine ‘booster’ doses. Writing in the Telegraph, she suggests that while it is “reasonable” to offer the extremely vulnerable a booster jab, “it can be to no-one else’s individual gain to submit to a third jab, having already reduced the risk of severe disease (which was very small in the first place for most) by receiving two inoculations.”

For there to be the collective benefit of herd immunity, the booster would have to provide life-long protection against infection – unless we are willing to accept repeated mass vaccination into the foreseeable future. Aside from being a colossal diversion of limited resources, that would open the door to a permanent state of lockdown as we lurch from one booster campaign to the next.

All of these speculations and ethical entanglements can be avoided by acknowledging that the vaccines have already brought focused protection to those who needed it in the U.K. and that now the best course of action is to rely on natural immunity to maintain and consolidate a normal state of living with this virus. These booster shots should be going into the arms of the many vulnerable people around the world who have yet to receive a single dose. It is shameful that we have not done this instead of pushing vaccines onto those who were in no need of them in the vain hope of preventing the spread of the virus in more affluent countries.

It is also deplorable that it is being argued that we should vaccinate the rest of the world in order to prevent them from remaining a breeding ground for new variants. It is unlikely that a mutant will arise which evades immunity against severe disease conferred either by vaccination or natural infection. It may be better able to cause reinfections which will then allow it to displace the prevailing variant, just as the delta variant has taken over in many places.

However, these ‘take-overs’ do not imply that the incoming variants are hugely more transmissible. It is crucial that we learn to accept that new variants may outcompete established variants but that these will not increase the burden of disease in a population where the vulnerable have been vaccinated or experienced natural infection prior to becoming vulnerable.

In the unlikely event of the evolution of a variant which resists immunity to severe disease, we will have to develop new vaccines tailored to such variants rather than relying upon boosting pre-existing immunity. It is reassuring that the technology is there to do this on a short timescale, as the success of the current vaccines has shown.

Worth reading in full.

U.S. to Offer Booster Shots From September

The U.S. Government has announced that Americans will be offered booster Covid vaccine doses from September 20th, starting with healthcare workers and older people, saying that the protection from two vaccine doses “decrease[s] over time”. More than a million Americans have already had a booster vaccine, according to federal data, but the roll-out is also being extended due to fears over the Delta variant. The Guardian has more.

The White House is prepared to offer a third booster shot starting on that date to all Americans who completed their initial inoculation at least eight months ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.

The White House pandemic response coordinator, Jeff Zients, said the Covid vaccine booster shots will be free for all Americans. “It will be just as easy and convenient to get a booster shot as it is to get a first shot today,” Zients said.

The booster shots initially will be given primarily to healthcare workers, nursing home residents and older people, all of whom were among the first groups to be vaccinated in late 2020 and early 2021, the department said.

Top U.S. health officials said in a joint statement that they based their decision to offer boosters on data showing that the protectiveness of Covid shots currently authorized in the United States begins to diminish in the months after the shots are given.

The officials included Joe Biden’s Chief Medical Adviser, Anthony Fauci, as well as the heads of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health.

“The available data make very clear that protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection begins to decrease over time… and in association with the dominance of the Delta variant, we are starting to see evidence of reduced protection against mild and moderate disease,” the officials said.

“We conclude that a booster shot will be needed to maximize vaccine-induced protection and prolong its durability,” they added.

The officials said that they expect that people who received Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose Covid vaccine will also need boosters. …

In recent weeks, several other countries have also decided to offer booster shots to older adults as well as people with weak immune systems, including Israel, France and Germany.

The decision announced by the U.S. officials represented a shift from the optimism of health authorities in May in curbing the pandemic when Biden set a goal to vaccinate 70% of American adults with at least one dose by July 4th. That goal was achieved about a month late.

Worth reading in full.

Booster Vaccine to Be Compulsory for Care Home Staff

Care home workers will need to get a booster Covid vaccine in order to keep their jobs, a senior Government source has said. Booster shots will also be compulsory for some foreign trips and talks are underway on whether they will play a part in vaccine passport checks at nightclubs and other ‘large venues’. The Mail on Sunday has the story.

[Booster shots] will add to the legal requirements for care home staff, who from October will have to be double-jabbed to work in the sector, subject to parliamentary approval.

Millions are set to be offered a third jab from September after Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced the roll-out to priority groups.

A Minister told the Mail on Sunday the “logical” move will be to make the booster shots a requirement for travel, adding that the most up-to-date Covid certification for travel will become as normal as the need to have a yellow fever jab to enter certain countries. …

Meanwhile talks about what booster jabs will mean for domestic certification are still at an early stage within Government.

One insider said that, as domestic passports have only been announced for nightclubs, discussions over whether boosters will one day be required for entry are still in “very early days”.

The Government will make its decision on boosters following final advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which is reviewing the scientific evidence on the third jabs.

The JCVI previously issued interim advice in June that Brits “should be prepared” for another round of inoculations.

The roll-out would work in two stages, beginning with the over-70s, care home residents, extremely vulnerable people and health and care workers. 

Then all over-50s and under-50s with long-term health problems would be offered the booster vaccine.

Mr Javid said last week: “When it comes to booster jabs we are waiting for the final advice from JCVI… and when we get that advice we will be able to start the booster programme, but I anticipate it will begin in early September, so I’m already making plans for that.”

Worth reading in full.

More Than 75% Of All U.K. Adults Fully Vaccinated Against Covid

Another milestone has been reached in the U.K.’s Covid vaccine roll-out, with more than three-quarters of all adults having had two ‘jabs’. This comes less than a month before the offering of ‘booster shots’ to millions of Brits, which will likely change the definition of the term ‘fully vaccinated’. BBC News has the story.

A total of 39,688,566 people have now received both doses, while another seven million have only had a single dose, according to the latest figures.

Boris Johnson described the milestone in the vaccine roll-out as a “huge national achievement”. …

At the peak of the roll-out more than 752,000 jabs were given in a day on March 20th, although the rate has since slowed.

The U.K. reached the milestone of getting 50% of adults double jabbed on June 3rd and 25% of adults had received both doses by April 27th.

A further 32,250 first doses and 17,028 second doses were given across the U.K. on Monday.

The latest data also shows there were 23,510 new cases of Covid as well as a further 146 deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test.

Worth reading in full.

Needing to Be Vaccinated Against Covid to Travel Abroad “A Reality in This New World”, Says Grant Shapps

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has doubled down on his claim that Brits must get vaccinated against Covid “if they want to travel internationally again”. On Thursday, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that needing proof of vaccination to travel abroad “is a reality… in this new world”.

He said that “double vaccination” will be “a feature for evermore”, but seemed to correct himself by following the words “double vaccination” with “full vaccination”. Is this a hint that the ability to travel abroad will, further down the line, be contingent on booster shots too? The Guardian has more.

Grant Shapps predicted people would be required to prove they had been fully vaccinated for some time to come, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It is a reality that in this new world, we’re living with coronavirus… I think double vaccination or full vaccination is going to be a feature for evermore, and probably all countries will require full vaccination for you to enter.”

He said in an ideal world ministers would not have to impose quarantine restrictions or demand people pay money for multiple, expensive tests, but said the current system was likely to remain in place after summer.

That was because the threat of vaccine escape – meaning a variant emerging that current vaccines are less effective against – was the big worry on ministers’ minds, Shapps said.

“It would be irresponsible for us not, therefore, to be testing people when they do travel before they leave and when they get back – that’s how you can guard against the next big variant that none of us know about yet,” he said.

“So I think we’ll have to settle down into knowing that this will happen, but as the world opens up and international rules are adopted for travel, which will certainly include full vaccination, I think things will will start to become more routine for people who travel.”

Shapps said quarantine restrictions did not block the importation of variants completely, but said slowing down their arrival was helpful. …

Shapps defended having singled out France as the only Amber List country where travellers still had to quarantine for up to 10 days regardless of whether they had been fully vaccinated, after the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, had suggested it was partly due to the number of cases of the Beta variant in Réunion, a French overseas territory, thousands of miles away from mainland France.

He said there were “very close links” between Réunion and France, meaning high levels of the Beta variant on the island in the Indian Ocean had spilled over into the mainland’s north, but that these had since “descended”.

Worth reading in full.