Britain buys FOURTH and FIFTH rounds of booster jabs: Ministers order 114m extra vaccine doses – enough to keep country supplied for two MORE winters
Ministers have bought 114million more doses of coronavirus vaccines that can be tweaked to protect against new variants.
The Department of Health said they ‘accelerated’ the signing of the new contracts in light of the newly discovered Omicron strain.
The deal suggests ministers are preparing to boost the nation’s immunity for at least the next two winters.
The UK government has purchased an additional 114 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines
Moderna will supply 60million additional doses and Pfizer/BioNTech 54million
Moderna will supply 60million additional doses and Pfizer/BioNTech 54million.
This is on top of the 35million additional doses of Pfizer/BioNTech jabs ordered in August for delivery in the second half of next year, and the 60million Novavax and 7.5million GSK/Sanofi doses expected in 2022.
The new deal – negotiated by the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce – ensures access to modified vaccines if they are needed to combat Omicron or future variants of concern.
It comes as ministers today unveil a major advertising campaign designed to encourage people to come forward for their third shot as soon as they are notified by the NHS.
Today’s deal comes on the first anniversary of UK regulators becoming the first in the world to approve the Pfizer vaccine – a move which sparked this year’s world-beating jabs rollout. It is the clearest sign yet that ministers are planning to run an annual booster programme against Covid for at least the next two years.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘Thanks to the Vaccine Taskforce, we have an excellent track record of securing the vaccines the country needs to keep this virus at bay.
‘These new deals will future-proof the Great British vaccination effort – which has so far delivered more than 115million first, second and booster jabs across the UK – and will ensure we can protect even more people in the years ahead.
Today’s deal comes on the first anniversary of UK regulators becoming the first in the world to approve the Pfizer vaccine – a move which sparked this year’s world-beating jabs rollout. It is the clearest sign yet that ministers are planning to run an annual booster programme against Covid for at least the next two years
‘This is a national mission, and our best weapon to deal with this virus and its variants is to get jabs in arms – so when you are called forward, get the jab and get boosted.’
The Government has now secured access to 453.5million vaccine doses through agreements with six separate developers.
Following the emergence of Omicron, Mr Javid asked the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) for rapid advice on extending the booster programme to all those aged 18 and over. The advice was accepted this week, with the NHS tasked with offering a booster to all eligible adults in England by the end of January.
Experts say existing vaccines are likely to offer at least some protection against new variants, particularly severe illness and death.
But leading manufacturers are already working to adapt their formulas to make them even more effective against new threats.
In the meantime, Government advisers hope boosting antibody levels with the existing jabs will prevent another wave of infections from Omicron
In the meantime, Government advisers hope boosting antibody levels with the existing jabs will prevent another wave of infections from Omicron. To speed up the vaccination programme, around 400 military personnel will be drafted in to support deployment, with 1,500 community pharmacy sites, additional hospital hubs, and pop-up sites opening in convenient locations across the country.
More than 3,000 sites are already open in England – more than double the number in February.
But global health leaders yesterday questioned the UK’s booster campaign. Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organisation’s health emergencies programme, said he is not aware of any evidence that would suggest offering booster jabs to the entire population gives any greater protection to healthy people.
Asked about the acceleration of the UK’s booster programme, he told a press briefing: ‘It’s tough for some countries who have huge amounts of excess vaccine to decide who to give it to, but that’s not the problem being faced by a lot of countries around the world who can’t get even primary vaccination to their most vulnerable…
‘There are others here who can better answer than me… but right now there is no evidence that I’m aware of that would suggest that boosting the entire population is going to necessarily provide any greater protection for otherwise healthy individuals against hospitalisation or death.’