Everyone over the age of 18 across the UK is currently eligible to receive two doses of a Covid-19 vaccination. But soon booster jabs could be made to selected groups in an effort to bolster antibody rates in the more vulnerable sections of society as the UK continues to battle with soaring coronavirus infection rates.
When will booster jabs be available?
Interim advice from the JCVI last month encouraged the NHS to prepare for a programme of booster jabs, most likely to be offered in the autumn.
However, a final decision on whether this will go ahead or not has not been made.
The UK Government website reads: “Pending further data and final advice, millions may be offered booster vaccine from September.”
Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid said: “The phenomenal vaccine rollout has already saved tens of thousands of lives and prevented millions of infections, helping to wrestle back control of the pandemic and ease lockdown restrictions so we can return to normal as soon as possible.
“We welcome this interim advice, which will help us ensure we are ready in our preparations for autumn.
“We look forward to receiving the committee’s final advice in due course.
“We need to learn to live with this virus. Our first COVID-19 vaccination programme is restoring freedom in this country, and our booster programme will protect this freedom.
“We are working with the NHS to make sure we can rapidly deliver this programme to maintain protection for people in the winter months.”
Currently, it is unclear whether protection from current vaccines has weakened enough to warrant boosters, as well as many experts arguing that initial jabs are still needed in poorer countries to prevent the prevalence of new variants.
Current vaccines all offer excellent protection against emerging variants as far as we are aware, and significantly reduce the chance of a severe illness or death.
Research shows the immune response from existing vaccines remains strong for at least eight months.
However, as vaccines for the virus are relatively new, data about long-lasting effectiveness is still being gathered and results could change over time.
We already have booster shots available for other viral infections, such as the flu, which is offered yearly to elderly and vulnerable people across the UK for free.
On July 8, Pfizer-BioNTech announced it plans to apply for emergency authorisation for a booster dose of its vaccine, stating: “We continue to believe that it is likely, based on the totality of the data we have to date, that a third dose may be needed within six to 12 months after full vaccination.”
Elsewhere, the European Medicines Agency and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control agree there is not enough data to recommend booster shots for the COVID-19 vaccines at this moment in time.
In a statement on July 14, they said: “It is currently too early to confirm if and when a booster dose for COVID-19 vaccines will be needed, because there is not yet enough data from vaccination campaigns and ongoing studies to understand how long protection from the vaccines will last, also considering the spread of variants.”