SIXTY million extra Pfizer vaccines have been secured for the UK – as the government stockpiles Autumn booster jabs to prevent a third wave.
Boris Johnson has already warned of a fresh wave of infections and experts said extra Covid doses for the vulnerable could be available by September.
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It comes ahead of the rollout extension to under-40s, expected in the next few weeks, and takes the total UK order to 100 million doses.
All over-50s will be given a third booster jab against new variants this autumn to prevent a killer winter wave, under plans leaked to The Sun.
The extra 60 million Pfizer doses will add to the UK’s growing armoury of vaccines – with deals now in place for 517 million shots of eight different types.
Addressing the nation at a Downing Street press conference this evening, Matt Hancock said: “The vaccine is helping us to bring back our freedom and we must protect that programme.
“So we are working on our plans for booster shots too. To keep us safe and free here, while we get this disease under control across the whole world, we have been working on a programme of booster shots for over a year now.
“I’m delighted to tell you we’ve been able to secure an extra 60 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine.”
It comes as:
Mr Hancock added that the “evidence is stacking up” that the vaccine protects you and your loved ones.
He added: “These further 60 million doses will be used, alongside others, as part of our booster programme from later this year, so we can protect the progress that we’ve all made.”
Mr Hancock added that these jabs have not yet been manufactured and that further 60million doses is a forward order.
He added: “We are going to have to live with coronavirus much like we do with flu. It’s something we do things about, like infection controls in hospitals, like vaccinations… but it isn’t something that dominates our lives like it does today.”
Vaccines have a direct link to antibodies and protecting people from infection and data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today showed that seven in 10 Brits now have antibodies.
“We’re looking at whether the second dose gives an even bigger effect.
“We know that indoor settings have the highest risk of transmission so these results are really encouraging in terms of the impact of the vaccine on reducing transmission”, Mr Hancock added.
Earlier today Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England (PHE) said: “Vaccines are vital in helping us return to a normal way of life.
“Not only do vaccines reduce the severity of illness and prevent hundreds of deaths every day, we now see they also have an additional impact on reducing the chance of passing Covid-19 on to others.”
Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and chief investigator of the Oxford vaccine trial earlier this week said “updated” vaccines to protect against the South African and potentially other new variants would be ready by September or October.
He said: “They can certainly be available for the last quarter of this year.
“We are talking to the other developers and everyone is working towards that timeline to have updated vaccines available.
“The main thing is to change the sequence of the spike protein so it matches some of the new variants.”
NHS England’s Dr Nikki Kanani was also present at the Downing Street press conference along with Professor Jonathan Vam Tam.
The pair emphasised how important the vaccine rollout is and thanked Brits for taking part in coronavirus trials with Dr Kanani stating that around 20,000 lives had been saved by drugs such as dexamethasone.
Prof Van Tam added that the vaccine programme had always been rolled out with scientific uncertainty and said the idea had always been there to give booster jabs to Brits as other variants continue to circulate.
Surge testing is in place in some parts of the country to detect these cases and Prof Van Tam added: “We are extremely confident that our current vaccines are working extremely well against the dominant variant in the UK.”
Earlier this week the NHS booking system opened up to anyone over-42.
The UK’s drugs regulator is set to make a decision tomorrow on the safety of giving the AZ vaccine to under-40s.
Currently anyone between 18-29 is offered an alternative jab, after the small risk of blood clots were found in younger people.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is set to hold a crunch meeting to discuss whether the benefits of the jab in preventing Covid disease outweigh the tiny risk of blood clots tomorrow.
But if health chiefs decide to restrict use of the AstraZeneca jab further, it could slow the programme down.
At the current rate, it is expected people in England in their 30s could be offered their jab within a couple of weeks.
It has already been decided that those under 30 years old will be offered an alternative jab from Pfizer or Moderna.
Deputy chair of the JCVI Professor Anthony Harnden told MPs at the Science and Technology Committee: “We are meeting twice a week at the moment, and almost all the discussions have been about whether to give the AstraZeneca vaccine to under-40s.
“We will be meeting tomorrow and will be making a decision.”
HOW MANY DOSES DOES THE UK HAVE?
Here we break down the 517 doses the UK has on order
- Pfizer/BioNTech for 100 million doses – including the additional 60 million doses
- Oxford/AstraZeneca for 100 million doses
- Moderna for 17 million doses
- Janssen for 30 million doses
- Novavax for 60 million doses
- Valneva for 100 million doses
- GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur for 60 million doses
- CureVac for 50 million doses
Last week the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) published their latest findings, noting there is a 19 per cent fatality rate in those who develop blood clots with low platelet counts, after the AstraZenca jab.
It comes after a review recommended under-30s be offered different shots as a “course correction” after the MHRA found a “reasonably plausible link”.
Side effects can occur with all medications and vaccines and this is no different for coronavirus vaccines.
Most people will not have any side effects after their jab, but those who do have reported pain at the site of injection, flu-like symptoms and fatigue.
Up to April 14, the MHRA said it had 168 reports of major thromboembolic events (blood clots) following the AstraZeneca jab.
The latest report detailed that these events occurred in 93 women and 75 men aged between 18-93 years old.
There were 32 deaths caused by the clots – with a fatality rate of 19 per cent and one case was reported after a second dose.
Why vaccines bring us closer together
Pfizer’s head of vaccines, Darius Hughes said the pandemic has also once again demonstrated the power of immunisation as a public health intervention.
He said: “This week is World Immunisation Week, with the theme of ‘vaccines bring us closer’.
“The World Health Organization is calling for greater engagement globally on the wider health and well-being benefits that immunisation can bring, with the aim of increasing uptake of vaccines and encouraging investment to help remove barriers to access.”
Mr Hughes stated that prevention can help government better manage public health.
He said everyone needs to work together collectively to support people in making their own choices and managing their own health.
he added: “Milestones like World Immunisation Week are important in helping to raise public awareness of the value of vaccinations throughout our lives.
“With a renewed focus on keeping people well – not just making them better – we believe that we can support more people to live as they want, contribute to a more sustainable NHS and build a healthier and more resilient future for Britain.”
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Cerebral venous sinus thrombosis was also reported in 77 cases, with the average age of patients presenting with this condition being 47.
A further 91 patients had other major thromboembolic events with concurrent thrombocytopenia.
The rollout of the jab had been paused in Europe but had continued in the UK and one in four UK adults are now fully vaccinated after a record number of second doses were dished out in a week.
It means a quarter have had both jabs – a total of 13,201,811 people.