The UK said on Tuesday it would offer a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine to all people over 50 and other vulnerable people to help the country weather the pandemic during the winter months.
The boosters, to be rolled out starting next week, were approved a day after the Conservative government also backed plans to offer one dose of the vaccine to children ages 12 to 15.
Boris Johnson made the announcement as he presented the government’s plan to tackle COVID-19 during the fall and winter months.
Speaking at a press conference in Downing Street, the Prime Minister called the UK’s COVID-19 situation “genuinely more difficult” than it had been a year ago.
The government advisory body, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI), recommended that booster shots be offered to all people over 50, healthcare workers, people with medical conditions. underlying health conditions and those living with people with compromised immune systems. They will be given no earlier than six months after a person has received their second dose of the vaccine.
About 30 million people will be eligible for the booster injections, which aim to protect against a slight drop in immunity in those who have received two injections.
The JCVI said the Pfizer vaccine should be the first choice for booster shots, with a half-dose of Moderna as an alternative.
The decision to offer booster shots is not recommended by the World Health Organization, which has asked rich countries to delay their distribution until each country has vaccinated at least 40% of its population. Only a few other wealthy countries have recommended their use.
England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said it was vitally important that developing countries get the vaccines they need, saying the UK has an “absolute moral imperative” to ensure that the vaccines were being given. But he pointed to the difficulties in transporting the Pfizer vaccine, which has a relatively short shelf life and must be stored at very cold temperatures.
Childhood vaccinations “not well managed”
Commenting on the state of the pandemic in the UK, Boris Johnson said there were “higher daily case levels, thousands more” than a year ago. But he claimed the British people were “incomparably better placed to fight the disease” because of the high levels of vaccinations and antibodies against COVID among the population.
However, although the prime minister did not say that measures such as mask warrants and so-called “vaccine passports” would be introduced during the winter, he did not rule out such measures. .
The UK decided on Monday to offer COVID-19 vaccines to children 12 and older, as the government bet that expanded vaccination and slight changes in social behavior can avoid the need for lockdown in winter.
The chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have recommended that children aged 12 to 15 receive a single dose of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine, although government advisers in vaccine industry said this month that this step would only have marginal health benefits.
“This will reduce transmission, but it will also reduce the rate of infection among young people and critically prevent them from contracting Long Covid, which we know to be a problem,” said Martin McKee, professor. of European Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, welcome the move.
“It was not handled well,” he told Euronews Tonight. “Other countries have looked at the evidence and decided that the benefits outweigh the risks in this age group – the United States, France, many European countries and have already started vaccinating people, in fact , several million children have now been vaccinated. “
Attack on vaccine “myths”
Calling on everyone eligible for a vaccine to get one as soon as possible, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said there is a “significantly smaller” risk of being admitted to a hospital with COVID-19 if anyone ‘one is vaccinated compared to those who are not. . He said that a person in their 30s who is not vaccinated is at the same level of risk as a person in their 30s who is vaccinated.
“One of the most depressing things for doctors, myself included, is talking to people who have just chosen not to be vaccinated because it was impractical at the time. And you see them being transferred to intensive care, and you know it was a very serious problem because they had not been vaccinated, ”he said.
Whitty has also targeted those who spread misinformation about vaccines after being asked about rapper Nicki Minaj’s comments. The singer has indicated in a series of tweets that she may have contracted COVID-19, but said she would not be pressured to get the shot for the Met Gala, which she did not attend. She tweeted on Monday that the New York event required guests to be bitten and also shared an unfounded story about the risks of the vaccine and impotence.
“There are a number of myths going around, some of which are just plain silly and others are clearly designed to frighten,” Whitty said. “He’s one of them. That’s wrong.
Whitty said people “peddling untruths” to discourage others from getting the vaccine should be “ashamed” of themselves.