A Covid-19 booster jab in the autumn and then annual vaccinations are very probable, Nadhim Zahawi, Britain’s vaccine deployment minister, said on Sunday.
The UK has already given over 12 million Britons their first doses and is on track to meet the target of vaccinating everyone in the most vulnerable groups by mid-February.
“We see an annual or a booster in the autumn and then an annual shot, in the way we do with flu vaccinations where you look at what variant of virus is spreading around the world,” Zahawi told the BBC.
The coronavirus variants currently most concerning for scientists and public health experts are the British, South African and Brazilian types, which appear to spread more swiftly than others, reports Reuters.
AstraZeneca said on Saturday that its vaccine, developed with the University of Oxford, appears to offer only limited protection against a mild disease caused by the South African variant of Covid-19, based on early trial data. This would indicate that a booster shot specifically aimed at that variant could be designed as a booster shot.
The success of the UK’s vaccine rollout, however, is prompting much debate about how soon the government can ease broader lockdown restrictions, as plans to reopen schools in England in March take shape.
As some nations consider requiring a vaccine passport to enable the easing of travel restrictions, the minister insisted the British government was not considering such documents to allow those who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 to travel internationally.
‘Vaccines are not mandated in the UK, that’s not how we do things: we do them by consent,” he said. “We don’t yet know what the impact of vaccines on transmission is, and it would be discriminatory.”
He told the BBC that inoculated people could seek proof from their doctor if needed.