The UK government has launched its controversial COVID-19 vaccine booster program after consulting with its vaccine advisors. All people who received the first dose of the UK vaccine will receive a second dose starting September 20, 2021.
All residents and staff in care homes, frontline health and social workers, anyone over 50, all people over 16 with underlying medical conditions that place them at greater risk for severe COVID-19 (together with their carers), and all adults living with an immunosuppressed individual are included.
Anybody taking the third dose must have received their first at least six months ago. People will be given the same priority as the first wave, with staff and residents of care homes being vaccinated first. Here are some key points to remember if you or someone you care about is going to be included in the booster program.
Why do boosters need to be given?
There are concerns that some of those who received their vaccines several years ago may not have felt the full effects of the second dose. This problem can be solved by using boosters to remind the immune system that it is ready to fight infection.
It is not clear whether people who received the vaccine more than six months ago need to have their immunity topped up. Some evidence suggests that COVID-19 vaccine immunity fades over time. However, the vaccines are still too new to know if this will continue. The British government offers boosters to protect against this possibility.
The fear is that indoor mixing, and thus the risk of getting sick from it could lead to a decline in immunity for those who were vaccinated first. Keep in mind that COVID-19 is most likely to affect those who were vaccinated the longest.
This could not only cost lives but also cause a surge in the number of diseases among this group. It could also combine with seasonal pressures, such as influenza, to overwhelm the NHS.
Which vaccine can people get?
Most likely Pfizer/BioNTech.
This recommendation was made by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. After reviewing unpublished data from the Cov-Boost Study that investigated the effects of different vaccine boosters, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation made the recommendation.
The Cov-Boost Study, according to the committee, has shown that Pfizer’s jab can provide a strong boost to immunity regardless of previous vaccines. Research has shown that an Oxford/AstraZeneca dose may be boosted with a Pfizer vaccine. This could increase the immune response to Oxford/AstraZeneca. This is a safe and possibly even beneficial way to mix manufacturers.
A half-dose of Moderna vaccine can also be used as a booster according to the Cov-Boost Study. The committee states that AstraZeneca can be used to boost the immune system if necessary. However, this is only for those who have received it before.
These decisions may have an interesting knock-on effect. Moderna and Pfizer vaccines must be kept in freezers. This makes distribution more complicated than the AstraZeneca jab which requires refrigeration.
Is it a good idea to launch a booster program?
Although it’s not clear how much vaccine protection diminishes, we know that immunity to coronaviruses is usually lost after a while. It may last for a few months in some cases.
Some people who received the first round of vaccines may have experienced an underperformance of their immune systems as a result of illness or treatment. This could have affected the level of protection they were provided with COVID-19 vaccinations. Vaccines are less effective as your immune system declines with age. It makes sense to provide a boost to the current priority patients.
There is good evidence that the body can respond to COVID-19 vaccines. A full course of vaccines (usually two doses) should suffice for healthy adults. Even though COVID-19 can be fatal in young, healthy adults, it is unlikely that they will need to be admitted to the hospital. There is little evidence to support expanding Britain’s booster program.
Until everyone is protected, the coronavirus cannot be controlled. It is questionable whether boosters should be given to people who have been twice vaccinated. Healthcare workers in many countries have never received a COVID-19 vaccination dose. Boosters shouldn’t be given to people who don’t need them.
At this stage in the pandemic, we should at least be providing boosters and increasing global vaccine rollout. Both should be possible. If it’s not, we should prioritize those most at risk.