Vaccine adviser Professor Adam Finn raised the prospect of Covid jabs being dished out every winter
It is a ‘strong possibility’ that Covid jabs will be rolled out every year alongside flu vaccines, a Government vaccine adviser suggested today.
Over-75s and the most vulnerable are set to get a second booster dose this spring, with the ‘direction of discussion’ already pointing to a third booster in the winter.
Professor Adam Finn, who advises No10 on the roll out, today raised the prospect of an annual Covid jabbing drive saying it was an ‘open question’.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) member told BBC Breakfast: ‘It’s hard to be absolutely sure about that, but the direction of discussion at the moment is certainly a booster campaign in the autumn, directed probably at the people who… we think are most at risk.
‘Whether that goes on year after year like the flu programme is still an open question and depends on what Covid does to us in the interim.
‘But it’s a strong possibility that we may have a winter-time campaign, combined with the flu vaccine campaign, going forward.’
Around 8million Britons will be offered another Covid vaccine within weeks, ministers say, to ‘maintain’ high immunity levels among those at risk from the virus.
Boris Johnson has heralded jabs as the key to ‘restoring our liberties in full’ and praised the ‘extraordinary success’ of previous roll outs.
The over-75s, older care home residents and immunocompromised people aged 12 and over will be eligible for the top-up dose in the coming months to maintain their protection against becoming severely unwell with the virus. They will either be given a Pfizer or Moderna jab (pictured)
Ministers have not ruled out an annual drive similar to the flu jab, which is normally offered to over-65s every year alongside the vulnerable.
But last year the flu drive was extended to over-50s amid concerns over the NHS being hit by a ‘double-whammy’ of flu and Covid.
Britain has already ‘future-proofed’ its supplies of Covid jabs by securing another 114million doses to arrive over the next two years.
Mostly Moderna and Pfizer shots, the amount on order is almost enough to inoculate all 67million Britons twice more. They can also be tweaked to fight variants.
Its booster drive this year saw 66 per cent of adults get the top-up doses.
But uptake was patchy with more than 90 per cent of over-70s getting the jabs, compared to less than four in ten people in younger age groups.
It is not clear whether this level of uptake would be repeated over annual jab drives.
Last year the flu vaccination drive saw a record 80 per cent of over-65s show up for their dose — although this took place amid heightened concern over viruses.
Sajid Javid reveals he will STILL wear a face mask on a ‘packed’ Tube
Sajid Javid today admitted he will continue to wear a face mask on busy trains and urged ill workers to stay at home in the post-Covid era.
Despite masks no longer being compulsory in public settings in England, the Health Secretary said he would still cover up on a ‘packed’ London Tube because cases are still high.
He also called on people to take more ‘personal responsibility’ over their decisions, saying workers should ‘stay away from others’ and no longer battle into the office if they feel unwell.
Boris Johnson last night hailed the end of the ‘darkest, grimmest years in our peace-time history’ as he confirmed the final Covid curbs would be axed.
After almost two years of on-off lockdowns, the PM revealed that all remaining legal restrictions will be lifted at midnight tomorrow.
The requirement to self-isolate for at least five days after testing positive for Covid is being dropped, and free testing — thought to cost No10 £2billion a month — will end on April 1 for all but the elderly and vulnerable.
In the winter before the pandemic 72 per cent of over-65s got their flu jab.
Among 50 to 65-year-olds added to that year’s drive just 26 per cent got the shot.
Professor Finn, from Bristol University, also refused to support ending the final Covid rules in England, which has been blasted by some scientists as ‘neglecting’ the most vulnerable.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘This is a tricky business, we really can’t predict the future with all that much confidence.
‘We have to make a best guess, we have to base it on the evidence that we’ve got and we clearly all of us don’t want to go back to a position where large numbers of people are dying and being admitted to hospital.
‘But we have to make the best call that we can.
‘And I think the public have done a lot to mitigate the seriousness of the pandemic by being cautious, avoiding transmitting infection to each other, taking vaccines, wearing masks and so on. And I hope they’ll go on doing that.’
Over-75s, all care home residents and immunocompromised people aged 12 and over will be eligible for the top-up dose in the coming weeks.
The JCVI, which advises No10 on the rollout, said the spring roll-out will ‘maintain high levels of protection for the most vulnerable individuals’.
Eligible over-18s will receive a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine this spring, while immunocompromised people aged 12 to 18 will receive a Pfizer jab. They will only be eligible for the additional jab six months after their last.
Officials say it will mean that some severely immunocompromised people who have already had four jabs will get a fifth — this group includes blood cancer patients and transplant recipients. It is unclear how many Britons have already had four vaccines.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who greenlit the plans, which will apply to the entirety of the UK, not just England.
The move means the UK joins a short list of nations that have already began dishing out fourth doses, such as Israel, Denmark and Germany.
And it comes after Mr Javid last week announced the Covid vaccine rollout would be expanded to all children aged five to 11 in April.
The vaccination campaign forms part of Mr Johnson’s blueprint for living with the virus, which saw the Prime Minister today confirm self-isolation rules will be axed from Thursday.
Speaking to MPs in the Commons yesterday afternoon, Mr Johnson claimed the ‘targeted’ rollout will safe guard against a ‘possible resurgence of the virus’.