Covid boosters will be needed in September as cases continue to rise, a government vaccines expert has warned.
Professor Adam Finn, a member of the government’s Joint Committee on Immunisations and Vaccinations, suggested a fifth jab will need to be rolled out for the most vulnerable as immunity to the virus gained by previous booster campaigns wanes.
Professor Finn suggested September would be a good time to start a new booster campaign when the NHS usually also begins rolling out flu vaccines.
He told BBC Radio 4 on Monday: “The booster protection does fade, particularly against milder infection and after a while against severe infection as well. So that’s a disappointment for us all with regards to these vaccines which have otherwise been very valuable in terms of the pandemic.
“But we are going to need to provide boosters, particularly to people who are at risk getting very seriously ill if they get it later in the year.”
The JCVI member warned the UK may also face a “significant flu epidemic” this winter as cases in the southern hemisphere surge.
“With each passing winter lack of flu the concern is the immunity in the population against flu is lower and lower so the potential for a having a really big flu epidemic goes up and up so we’re getting increasing worried.
“The picture in the southern hemisphere suggests that quite a significant flu epidemic might occur here in the north this coming winter.”
Asked who should be prioritised for a further Covid booster, Professor Finn said: “We’re going to need to focus on older people, people with underlying conditions and potentially also healthcare workers on the frontline.”
Earlier this year the JCVI said the UK would likely need an autumn Covid booster campaign after advising the government to begin a spring booster programme for vulnerable patients and over-75s.
The news comes as Covid-19 cases and hospital admissions accross the UK continue to rise. On Friday, the number of people with Covid in hospitals accross England increased by more than 25 per cent week on week.
Healthcare workers are currently not included in the government’s spring booster campaign after plans to make jabs mandatory were dropped earlier this year.
When asked if he thought the take up of any booster jab would be as widespread as previous campaigns Professor Finn said: “With sucessive boosters uptake, even among the elderly becomes lower and lower so I think people, for whatever reason, are less concerned and are less likely to come forward.”
He added: “The vaccines we have are reactogenic, meaning people feel a bit rotten after, so if we have vaccines in the future that do that less that might help.”
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