The NHS is planning to begin a further round of Covid-19 vaccinations in the autumn, offering “boosters” alongside seasonal flu jabs to deal with potentially dangerous new strains of coronavirus.
i reports that a network of drive-through vaccination centres is also being prepared for the next phase of the UK’s Covid-19 vaccine roll-out, according to papers from an NHS health service board meeting seen by the paper.
In a report submitted to an NHS board meeting on Thursday, Emily Lawson, the head of the vaccination programme in England, for a second phase of coronavirus vaccinations, which will see the jabs offered to younger age groups over the late spring and summer.
What are the plans?
The NHS intends to set up new vaccination centres including drive-through facilities – already being used in some regions to get through patients more quickly – and pop-up clinics.
Citing “convenience of access” to vaccines, Dr Lawson said the NHS will introduce “additional innovative delivery modes”, and is now working on the basis that a “revaccination campaign” will begin later this year.
Those who have already received their full innoculations against Covid-19 will be given booster shots, tailored to work effectively against new strains of the virus which may be resistant to existing jabs.
These boosters would be given in parallel with the annual flu jab from October.
Booster jabs will be ‘critical’
Another fear is that immunity granted by Covid-19 vaccines may wane after a period of time, although chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has said experts “don’t know exactly how long because obviously people haven’t been vaccinated for a very long period.”
Though the “expectation” is that antibodies to vaccines will last for “a reasonable period”, Sir Patrick said booster jabs might be needed in the autumn.
At a Downing Street press briefing on 23 March, Sir Patrick said: “There will be a need to think about booster jabs for vaccines in the autumn I suspect, particularly thinking about getting a high level of immunity to cover things over the winter.”
Scientific adviser Professor Neil Ferguson has said booster jabs in the autumn will be “critical”, adding: “We don’t yet know how long the immunity lasts from the vaccines we’re giving… it’s entirely likely we will need to boost immunity.
“We can’t stop things like the Brazilian and the South African variants forever and they are different immunologically. The current vaccines are not as effective against those strains probably, so for that reason as well we want to update vaccines and boost people’s immunity.”
UK/EU dispute continues
Meanwhile, the UK and European Union remain locked in a dispute over Covid-19 vaccine supplies as Boris Johnson warned that a trade war over jabs would result in “considerable” and “long-term” damage.
A joint statement this week said the two sides were seeking a “win-win” deal to increase supplies across the UK and EU.
It came after the European Commission set out a tougher regime to stem supplies of jabs to nations faring better in the pandemic as the bloc’s states faced a third wave of cases.
Admitting it is a Covid-19 “hotspot”, the European Commission said on Wednesday it may not approve exports to nations with more advanced vaccine rollouts or where there is a better “epidemiological situation”.
The EU announced the move as it is embroiled in a row with AstraZeneca over supplies, but did not rule out Pfizer jabs being restricted to the UK if sufficient vaccines are not shipped to the bloc.