Covid booster jabs should be dished out after FIVE months instead of six so millions more vulnerable Brits can be protected before Christmas, Jeremy Hunt says
Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt called for the gap to getting a booster to be cut
Covid booster jabs should be dished out from five months after the second dose, the former Health Secretary suggested today.
Over-50s are currently required to wait half a year after their last vaccine before they are eligible for a top-up dose.
But amid spiralling infection rates and the fast approaching Christmas holidays Jeremy Hunt has called for ministers to cut the gap to match Israel’s approach.
He told the House of Commons that it would boost uptake and ensure millions of vulnerable Brits had the best possible protection before the festive period.
It comes as ministers face growing pressure to turbo-charge the booster roll out, with less than half of eligible people in England having already received their third dose.
Only a quarter of care home residents have been inoculated with the extra dose to date.
Mr Hunt, who also stood for the Conservative leadership, told the Commons: ‘Does it really matter when it’s only nine weeks until the Christmas holidays if someone has their booster jab after five months?
‘And should we not look at whether there should be flexibility in that decision so we can get more people in more quickly for their booster jabs?’
Only around 4.05million(purple line) out of the 8.7million eligible people (green line) in England have received the crucial third dose, prompting ministers to urge people to come forward for their inoculations
The above graph shows the pace of the booster vaccination drive. It reveals the number of doses given out by day in October (orange bars) and the total number of boosters given out over time (red line). This is compared against the number of second doses given out in April (blue line). People who got their second dose in April would now be due to get a top up dose
GPs complain they have no ‘capacity’ to play major role in accelerating sluggish Covid booster vaccine drive
Top GPs yesterday complained they were too overworked to help accelerate Britain’s sluggish Covid booster drive which has seen just a quarter of care home residents revaccinated.
The slow vaccination roll-out has led to finger pointing among officials, with the NHS blaming a lack of urgency among the public and insisting there are more than enough doctors, nurses and jabs available.
But the chair of the Royal College of GPs Professor Martin Marshall hinted family doctors were struggling to get involved in the programme because they were already juggling a surge in demand for appointments and the flu jab campaign.
He told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme: ‘I don’t think general practice should be drawn back into the high level of vaccinations that we provided early in the pandemic because we simply don’t have the capacity to do that. We need to look after our other patients who have other health problems.
‘There are a number of practices that have had to drop out of the vaccination programme because of the massive pressures [they face].’
Health minister Maggie Throup responded: ‘The JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) have provided the advice that it should be a minimum of six months from the second jab.’
She reassured the Commons that ‘the immunity doesn’t fall off a cliff edge’.
She said ‘it has waned slightly’ but ‘they still have a huge amount of immunity over and above those who are yet to get their first jab’.
And Ms Throup asked for people to come forward ‘as soon as they are eligible’.
The JCVI — which directed the UK’s vaccine roll out — approved booster doses for over-50s, the vulnerable, care home residents and healthcare workers last month.
But it said the top ups should only be given six months after the second dose because this was the ‘sweet spot’ for boosting immunity.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, the head of their vaccines unit, said at the time: ‘We want to suggest a six-month limit as a lower limit because we don’t want people to feel they need to rush to have this booster dose.
‘Getting a booster dose too early might mean getting a dose when they don’t actually need to have a vaccination because they still have a high level of protection.
‘And, as we have seen with the first and second dose, it may be that a longer interval to the third booster dose may actually be beneficial in the longer term.’
It takes about two weeks after a third dose is administered for it to bolster immunity against the virus.
Britain’s booster drive is lagging far behind the first vaccine roll out with just 4.05 out of 8.7million eligible people in England (47 per cent) having received their top up doses to date.
NHS England data also shows only 27.8 per cent of care home residents have received their crucial third vaccine, alongside 14.1 per cent of care home staff, despite the two being high priority groups. Around half of over-80s have received their boosters to date.
Patients say they are struggling to find out where to get their boosters, amid mounting pressure on the Government to get the programme moving in a race against surging infections and a new Delta variant.
Members of No10’s own scientific panels have publicly called for ministers to hurry up with the programme, which prompted Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to admit today it was ‘something we really need to address’.