The approval of both Pfizer and AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines for use as third doses was made today a medical chief warns ‘a person’s immunity may decline over time after their first vaccine course’
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Covid-19 vaccines have been approved as safe for use as booster jabs, and a decision on who should get them is due within days.
Third doses could be brought in imminently after Britain’s medical regulator gave them the thumbs-up today.
It is now down to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to give its approval and its members met yesterday to decide on who should get the booster shots.
The approval of both Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs came on the day Public Health England announced vaccines have now prevented 112,300 deaths.
Previous estimates had put the number at 105,900.
Pfizer boosters can be given to anyone, regardless of which doses they had previously.
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AstraZeneca boosters can only be given to those who previously had the Oxford University-developed jab.
Dr June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, announced: “A person’s immunity may decline over time after their first vaccine course. I am pleased to confirm the Covid-19 vaccines made by Pfizer and AstraZeneca can be used as safe and effective booster doses.”
The JCVI is looking at the latest data from the Cov-Boost trial run by the University Hospital Southampton.
The £19.3million clinical trial is testing Pfizer’s jab as well as AstraZeneca, Moderna, Novavax, Janssen from Johnson & Johnson, Valneva and CureVac.
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The study is examining whether people who have had two doses of AstraZeneca may get more benefit if they have a third dose of Pfizer.
PHE also said 24.7 million infections had been prevented by vaccines up to August 27. Nearly 89% of all people 16 and over in England have now received one dose, while 80% are fully vaccinated.
The UK reported 38,013 more confirmed Covid cases yesterday and 167 deaths.
Separate PHE data shows case rates are rising in all regions of England, except the south-west. The highest rate is among 10 to 19-year-olds.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “We continue to prepare for an autumn booster programme to ensure those most vulnerable to Covid-19 have protection extended ahead of winter and against new variants.”
However, Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, said: “A large UK booster programme right now would fly in the face of the WHO’s advice on how to end this pandemic. Gobbling up vaccine supplies in rich countries while the virus spreads unabated in low and middle-income countries is dangerous and makes new, more virulent, or vaccine-resistant variants more likely.”
Meanwhile the Government is being urged to intervene to prevent job losses at the MHRA which is planning to axe 20% of its workforce.
It follows a cut in the funding the regulator gets from the EU for its part in approving medicines for use on the Continent.
The Public and Commercial Service union, Prospect, the FDA, University and College Union and Unite have written to Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
They said: “In recent months ministers have rightly praised staff at the MHRA for the way in which they have responded to the pandemic.”