Health secretary Sajid Javid’s plans to offer a Covid booster jab to the most vulnerable from early September have been criticised by the chief of the Oxford Vaccine Group.
Although the health secretary is awaiting final advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation [JCVI], his intention is to offer Covid boosters and the latest flu vaccine to vulnerable demographics, particularly the over-50s, from next month.
Under the plans, priority would be given to those who received their first jabs when the vaccine rollout began in December 2020.
Scientists have warned that respiratory viruses are likely to make a comeback this autumn and winter, after the lockdown over late 2020 and early 2021 caused a drop-off in prevalence.
However, Professor Andrew Pollard has instead suggested that vaccines should be diverted to protect unvaccinated individuals abroad and curb the potential for new variants to emerge.
When quizzed about the health secretary’s plans, Professor Pollard - who helped develop the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine - said that “there isn’t any reason at this moment to panic” with vaccines currently holding out against the virus, adding that the decision to rollout booster jabs “should be scientifically driven”.
Meanwhile, leading figures within the NHS had stated that they needed plenty of notice for a Covid booster programme in order to successfully plan for vaccinating large swathes of the population against both coronavirus and influenza.
Professor Pollard has also said that over the coming months, the government should also seek to reform testing programmes to focus on clinically driven testing of those who become ill, rather than community test those with mild symptoms.
He said: “The focus should be on improving treatment for people who become seriously ill from Covid in hospital.”
Professor Pollard has also talked down the idea of herd immunity being achievable, since the delta variant of Covid is likely to continue to infect those who have been vaccinated.
He explained that even if the government went down the route of vaccinating all children, transmission of the virus would still occur.