UK to make covid vaccine annual jab to protect against new covid-19 mutant strains
In other developments:
- People were urged to live off food stocks to avoid shopping if they live in eight postcodes where the new South African strain has broken out.
- A new landmark study was welcomed as giving “categorical” proof that the decision to have a 12-week gap between injections was safe and even results in better protection.
- A pilot study of 24-hour vaccination centres has found that it was not very popular and most patients and vaccination teams prefer to work in daylight hours.
The likelihood of yearly boosters follows alarming discoveries that the Kent variant that has spread rapidly across England has “spontaneously” acquired one of the most worrying features seen in the new South African, a mutation known as E484K – dubbed “Eeek” by epidemiologists.
The mutation appears to make vaccines slightly less effective against the strain.
“Against these new variants, we may well need boosters that have a slightly adjusted vaccine, in the same way that we do for flu each year,” said Mr Hancock on Sky News.
“We’re working with the companies on developing those, and on ensuring that they can get regulated.
“And they can be safely used much more quickly than first time around because they’re just an adjustment to the vaccine rather than a completely new vaccine.”
Mr Hancock said the “core work” was still to vaccinate every adult across the country.
Asked about the threat posed by the new mutations, he said: “It is absolutely critical that where we find them, we absolutely stamp on it.”
He said people should consider living off food stocks to avoid shopping if they live in the postcodes where the South African strain has been found.
“If you are in one of those postcodes, it is absolutely imperative that you minimise all social contact outside of your house.
“In those areas we are saying ‘If you have food in the house, please use that’.
On the effect the Oxford vaccine could have on new variants, Professor Andrew Pollard, chief investigator of the vaccine trial, told Sky News: “I think most scientists are confident that the vaccines will have a good impact against that variant because it hasn’t picked up many mutations that should be avoiding human immune responses, whereas some of the other variants have absolutely been appearing in settings where there’s a need for the virus to escape from human immunity.