Plans for a COVID-19 booster jab programme in the autumn will be set out in the next few weeks, Matt Hancock has now said
The UK’s health secretary has said that government ministers were waiting for results from the trials of different combinations of the different vaccines.
It comes after both doctors and NHS trusts have said that planning for a booster rollout must start now as it will be involving bigger challenges.
They said that many questions needed answering, including how long immunity from the original COVID-19 vaccine lasts.
The issue of whether or not children will also be vaccinated still remains, health leaders said.
“We are currently trialling which combinations of jabs are the most effective,” Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast.
This comes after the UK government is considering relaxing the current travel restrictions that surround international travel for Britons who have had received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
He continued by saying:
“In the next few weeks, when we get the clinical data through on what’s the most effective combinations to have… then we’ll set out all the details for the booster programme for the autumn.”
Among the currently ongoing trials is the UK’s Cov-Boost trial, which is testing different combinations of third doses across England.
A senior government source has said that the UK would also benefit from new vaccines from both Novavax and Valneva, which are currently awaiting approval from the UK’s medicines regulator.
So far, almost 60% of UK adults have received two jabs vaccines of the vaccine, meaning that they are fully vaccinated, and over four in five adults have had their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
People have since been rushing to get their vaccines in recent days, with more than one million jabs booked on Friday and Saturday within England after vaccinations opened to all over-18s in the country.
Government ministers have repeatedly said that the vaccinations are the way out of lockdown, and the delay to England’s nation-wide lockdown ending from the 21st of June until the 19th of July was partly to allow more people to get vaccinated.
Some restrictions have been eased on Monday though, the original date for lockdown ending – and what some had dubbed Freedom Day.
The number of guests at a wedding is no longer limited to 30 (although there are capacity rules depending on a venue’s size), visiting arrangements for care homes are changing, children can go on overnight trips in groups of 30, and pilots of large events like Euro 2020 games will continue.
This comes after most lockdown rules will remain in place in England for four weeks after the planned 21 June easing, Boris Johnson has confirmed. Senior ministers have signed off on a decision to delay the lifting of all legal restrictions had been put upon social contact as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
And in Wales, rules are also being lifted slightly, including Covid capacity restrictions for music and comedy and the limits on weddings changing in line with a venue’s size.
In Northern Ireland, a planned easing of restrictions has been pushed back to at least the 5th of July, and current rules in Scotland are expected to be extended until mid-July.
The average number of daily confirmed cases of coronavirus is now rising in the UK, with a further 9,284 announced by the government on Sunday. A further six deaths were announced.
On Monday, Chris Hopson, the head of NHS Providers, which represents NHS hospitals and trusts in England, and Royal College of GPs chairman Martin Marshall said the 19th of July target to offer a first dose to all adults was “not so much a finishing line as a staging post”.
The government has previously promised there will be a booster programme for the Covid jab – but the health leaders said the prospect of a yearly Covid vaccine would bring “arguably greater challenges”, and it was important to know:
- How long will protection from the original double doses last – and will boosters be needed?
- Will people get the same vaccine as the original one they got?
- How will tweaking the vaccines for new variants work?
- Will Covid vaccines be tweaked every year, like the flu vaccine, or will it be more frequently?
- Will children be vaccinated and if so, when, where and how, because of the need to get consent?