An expert from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has warned booster vaccines will “wear off soon” if given too early. It came after the JCVI recommended a third shot of Covid jab for people with severely weakened immune systems.
Speaking to BBC Newsnight, JCVI member Adam Finn said: “I think we are likely to end up doing some boosting simply because we can’t afford to take the risk of having the most vulnerable people fall sick later this year.
“The danger is that you give your boosters too soon, and you end up providing people with protection they don’t really need.
“And then that wears off and they’re not protective of time when they do need it.”
“So it is a very difficult balancing act this getting this right.”
Host Emily Maitlis then asked: “For the very early adopters, as it were, back in December.
“Do you mean as far as we know, are they still protected now in September?”
Dr Finn said: “The early evidence we’ve got any kind of loss of protection against serious illness is a study that was mentioned from Israel.
“There the other studies we’ve seen are actually showing for all the vaccines that the protection against serious disease, hospitalisation, and death is actually very well maintained.
“There is clearly some waning of protection against more mild disease and asymptomatic infection.
“And that’s exacerbated by the Delta variant which is somewhat able to evade vaccine-induced protection.”
Half a million people in the UK who have severely weakened immune systems are to be offered third shots of Covid vaccines.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended these third shots of the Covid vaccine, as the protection offered by vaccines may wane over time.
Health officials have said that these “shots are not boosters, but instead form part of the primary vaccination schedule” for immunocompromised patients.
Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the JCVI, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We are talking about boosting many, many millions of people and therefore we want to get the strategy right on this.”
Meanwhile, Prof Shattock, who leads the Imperial vaccine programme, said that next winter elderly people and the vulnerable may be given an updated booster vaccine.
The JCVI is preparing to make a decision on booster jabs for the winter, with no announcement made yet.
On whether or not vaccines need to be tweaked, Prof Shattock said: “Over time people will watch to see whether the Delta variant remains stable and globally dominant.
“And if it does then I think people will look to update the vaccine over time.
“In the short term, we already know that the vaccines are effective at preventing serious illness from the Delta variant so there isn’t a pressing need to rush quickly, although this can be done in a relatively short order, probably a period of six months.”