Covid: Booster vaccines may not be needed for everyone in the UK, says AstraZeneca boss

The head of AstraZeneca said rolling out third doses too quickly would be an “unnecessary burden” on the NHS

Covid booster vaccines may not be necessary for everyone in the UK, the head of AstraZeneca has said.

The company’s boss said booster vaccines for everyone “may be needed, but it may not”, calling for patience from the Government as the firm works to find a definitive answer.

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At a glance: 5 key points

  • The head of AstraZeneca said rolling out third doses too quickly would be an “unnecessary burden” on the NHS
  • Vaccines MinisterNadhim Zahawi recently told MPs a vaccine booster programme is “ready to go” as soon as the scientific advice for the scheme is signed off
  • Those with severely weakened immune systems who are most at risk from Covid-19 will be offered another vaccine dose beginning this month
  • An update regarding the booster programme is expected soon
  • The UK’s chief medical officers are currently reviewing the wider benefits of vaccinating 12 to 15-year-olds

What’s been said

Writing in The Daily Telegraph alongside the company’s executive vice-president of biopharmaceuticals R&D Sir Mene Pangalos, AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot called for patience from the Government, stressing the UK was “a few weeks away” from having a definitive answer on the effectiveness of two doses in providing “continued, protective immunity”.

They said: “Moving too quickly to boost across the entire adult population will deprive us of these insights, leaving this important decision to rest on limited data.

“A third dose for all may be needed, but it may not. Mobilising the NHS for a boosting programme that is not needed would potentially add unnecessary burden on the NHS over the long winter months.

“Because NHS staff and resources are scarce, another national mobilisation would potentially leave us with fewer resources for cancer screenings and the other care provided by doctors and nurses each day.”

Background

More than half a million people with severely weakened immune systems and who are most at risk from Covid will be offered another vaccine dose beginning this month, following a recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

However, that announcement is separate from any decision on a booster programme, with news on this expected soon.

The UK’s chief medical officers are currently reviewing the wider benefits of vaccinating 12 to 15-year-olds after the JCVI declined to recommend a widespread rollout to the age group on health grounds alone.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), a total of 668 deaths registered in the week ending 27 August mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate. This was the highest number since 719 deaths were registered in the week to 26 March.