LONDON: Britain is starting to plan for a COVID-19 vaccine booster campaign starting later this year after top vaccine advisers said it might be necessary to give third shots to the elderly and most vulnerable from September.
The government said that a final decision on whether a vaccine booster campaign was needed had not been made, but officials had advised that preparations should begin on a precautionary basis.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised that there should be a plan to offer COVID-19 booster vaccines from September, starting with people 70 years old, care home residents and those who are immunosuppressed or vulnerable.
Britain has given 85 per cent of adults a first COVID-19 shot, with more than 60 per cent receiving two doses.
The success of the vaccine rollout has seen Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledge to lift lockdown restrictions on July 19, even as cases of the highly transmissible Delta variant rise.
“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,” health minister Sajid Javid said.
Data suggests that the current vaccines provide protection for at least six months, with more studies about the length of immunity and the effectiveness of booster shots expected in the coming months.
“We will continue to review emerging scientific data over the next few months, including data relating to the duration of immunity from the current vaccines,” said Wei Shen Lim, COVID-19 Chair for JCVI.
“Our final advice on booster vaccination may change substantially.”
The JCVI also said those offered boosters should also be given flu shots, adding that over 50s and people at risk from flu would be next in line after the highest priority groups.
The benefits of booster shots for younger people, many of whom are still getting their first and second shots, would be considered at a later date, the JCVI said.