‘Mass Boosters Unnecessary As Immunity Lasting Well’

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The comments from the scientist behind Oxford vaccine comes at a time when the UK medicines regulator has given greenlight to Pfizer and AstraZeneca for booster vaccines and awaiting approval from the vaccine advisory body, JCVI, reports Asian Lite Newsdesk

The UK medicines regulator – Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – has approved the use of Pfizer and AstraZeneca as Covid booster vaccines, paving the way for a rollout ahead of the winter.

But the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the UK vaccine advisory body, has not decided if they are needed, and who should be eligible, the BBC reported.

The JCVI has said a third dose should be offered to people with severely weakened immune systems. Up to half a million people over the age of 12 in the UK are in this group.

Meanwhile, Prof Dame Sarah Gilbert, the scientist behind the Oxford vaccine, told the Daily Telegraph that giving booster jabs to everyone is unnecessary as “immunity is lasting well.”

“We need to get vaccines to countries where few of the population have been vaccinated so far,” she said.

She said the decision over boosters needed to be looked at carefully. “We will look at each situation; the immunocompromised and elderly will receive boosters,” she told the Telegraph. “But I don’t think we need to boost everybody. Immunity is lasting well in the majority of people.”

Meanwhile, Dr June Raine, MHRA Chief Executive, said giving booster shots is an important regulatory change as it gives further options for the vaccination programme, which has saved thousands of lives so far.

“This means ensuring that existing COVID-19 vaccines can continue to be used in the most effective way possible,” Dr Raine said.

She also said the UK has in place a comprehensive safety surveillance strategy for monitoring the safety of all UK-approved COVID-19 vaccines and this surveillance will include booster jabs.

‘No need to rush into booster’

A third dose of vaccines against Covid-19 may not be needed for everyone in the UK and rushing into a nationwide rollout may put extra pressure on the country’s already burdened National Health Service (NHS), Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca has said, according to The Telegraph report.

“Moving too quickly to boost across the entire adult population will deprive us of these insights, leaving this important decision to rest on limited data,” Soriot wrote in the newspaper.

“A third dose for all may be needed, but it may not. Mobilising the NHS for a boosting programme that is not needed would potentially add unnecessary burden on the NHS over the long winter months.

“Because NHS staff and resources are scarce, another national mobilisation would potentially leave us with fewer resources for cancer screenings and the other care provided by doctors and nurses each day,” he said.

The UK drug maker chief noted that “this is important not just for the UK but for the rest of the world”.

So far, 1.2 billion doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, Covishield in India, have been distributed.

Soriot further stated that it is critical to understand the need for a third dose, as the decision will have “real implications for how we deploy scarce NHS resources”.

While booster doses may be “a sensible immediate precaution” for the vulnerable, the elderly or those with people with weak immune systems, the decision to jab the entire population must be based on “real world clinical effectiveness data, not simply antibody measurements”, they noted.

“Indeed, we don’t know what mix of antibodies and T-cells are needed to prevent serious illness — the so-called correlates of protection. This is why we need the weight of the clinical evidence gathered from real world use before we can make an informed decision on a third dose,” they pointed out.

On the other hand, US pharmaceutical major Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla had announced that Covid vaccine recipients will “likely” need a third dose between six to 12 months after they’re fully vaccinated. He also suggested the need for yearly vaccinations against coronavirus.

The US is also expected to soon roll out Covid booster vaccines for all its citizens, even as the World Health Organisation has called for a moratorium on boosters.

The US has already started a third dose for immunocompromised people. Other countries include Israel, Italy, France, and Russia.

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