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UK vaccine booster scheme expected to launch in September

UK’s Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, announced that a Covid Vaccine booster scheme is likely to be implemented next month (September 2021).

Mr Javid admitted he was uncertain of the exact start date as the government was waiting for the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisations to update their ‘final advice’ before confirming it publicly, adding that the ‘most vulnerable’ would be first to be offered their third jab.

It is still unclear whether the booster scheme will be on offer to all adults or just those belonging to specific, more vulnerable, groups.

Provisional advice from the JCVI last month proposed that more than 30 million of the most vulnerable UK population – together with all over-50s – should qualify to receive a third dose. The Health Secretary confirmed that a booster campaign will take place, but the pending debate is still ‘who’ will be boosted.

JCVI member, Professor Adam Finn, also confirmed that the terms of this scheme would be ‘imminently’ decided to assist those who may not be most effectively protected by their first two doses.

The argument premises that for some, the benefit of a third jab is clear, specifically for those with wreaked immune systems for whom it may take three doses to achieve the same outcome as two. However, for the remaining population, the existing two doses are proving to provide sufficient protection against the need for hospitalisation or becoming critically unwell.

Whether a mass campaign is necessary or ought to remain targeted remains up for debate.

Such debates have arisen from higher income countries being accused of offering vaccine doses to those at little risk of the virus, hoarding supplies from vulnerable populations across the globe. Figures show that approximately 70% of the entire UK population has had at least one jab, while in poorer countries, the equivalent is only 1%.

Immunologist Peter Openshaw commented that studies into the booster schemes’ effectiveness were ongoing and that it was key to determine the demand for third boosters carefully to ensure that ‘if we do have surplus vaccines, that they’re not necessarily used in this country, but might be sent overseas’.

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Adelaide Cannell

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January 2022
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