Rolling out booster jabs to younger age groups could help cut Covid infection rates to low levels across the UK, a leading scientist has said.
Prof Neil Ferguson said data suggests a third jab gives significant protection, even against mild illness.
He said he saw “no reason” why younger age groups should not be offered boosters once they were given to the priority groups.
He also said the UK was unlikely to get a “catastrophic winter wave”.
- UK bucks Europe Covid trend but concern over winter
- Dutch partial lockdown to tackle Covid surge
The UK recorded 40,375 new Covid-19 cases and 145 deaths on Friday.
In September, the government’s scientific advisers recommended everyone over 50 should be offered a third dose of a Covid vaccine, along with front-line medical staff and younger adults with some underlying health conditions. The rollout began later that month.
Prof Ferguson, head of the modelling group at Imperial College London, told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme he saw “no reason why we shouldn’t be rolling them out to younger age groups, once we’ve got through the priority groups, the over-50s and the clinically very vulnerable”.
Modelling data on the immunity booster jabs provided to the UK population will be published next week, he said.
Prof Ferguson said: “The data hasn’t been published for the UK, but I think it is going to look very like we’ve seen in places like Israel, where people are very substantially protected after their booster dose. Not just from severe disease – and we won’t have that data for a while – but even from just getting infected again, mild disease.
“And that’s what we’ve been missing in the last few months with the Delta variant, with people who have only had one or two doses.”
He said, according to modelling carried out by his group and at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, rolling out booster jabs to younger age groups “could make quite a big difference to driving down transmission to low levels”.
However, Prof Ferguson, whose modelling led to the first nationwide restrictions in 2020, added this would be a decision for the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) committee to make.
People are eligible for a booster jab in the UK if:
- They are aged 50 or over
- They are over-16 with a health condition that places them at high risk
- They are a front-line heath or social care worker
It must also have been six months (182 days) since their second dose.
Rules about who is eligible for a booster are the same throughout the UK.
In Scotland, people will be able to book boosters online from later this month. In Wales and Northern Ireland people will be invited to book an appointment and for most people this will happen at least six months after their second jabs.
Read more here.
Prof Ferguson said he thought the UK was unlikely to experience a “catastrophic winter wave at this point”. He said “we are in a very different place from last year” and “the vaccination is having a huge effect” in the population’s immunity levels.
Whereas restrictions have been reintroduced in some countries across Europe, such as the Netherlands, Prof Ferguson said the UK was in “quite a different situation” and he hoped it could avoid the return of social distancing measures this winter.
The UK has experienced a high number of cases since July, ranging from 30,000 to 50,000 new cases daily. Prof Ferguson said the high number of cases during the past four months “has obviously had a downside”. But, “paradoxically it had an upside of boosting the immunity of the population compared to countries like Germany, the Netherlands and France”, he added.
Germany recorded its highest number of new Covid infections on Wednesday. Across Europe, the highest number of hospitalisations and deaths from Covid have been among unvaccinated members of the population.
- NADIYA HUSSAIN’S CLASSIC COMFORT FOOD: From a warming beef curry to custard French toast…
- CRAMPS, LOW MOOD AND CRAVINGS?: The best things to eat on your period and when
Share Your Comment Below