The government has bought an additional 114 million COVID-19 vaccines in a hurry as scientists await data concerning the true impact of the latest variant of the coronavirus, omicron.
According to a GOV.UK press release, the Health Secretary Sajid Javid has sped up the process of signing deals that were already on the table due to the surge in cases and the spread of the omicron variant.
The agreement will see an additional 60 million Moderna and 54 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines being delivered in 2022 and 2023 and will provide the UK with any modified vaccines developed if they are needed to combat omicron or any subsequent new variant.
There is uncertainty over the need for future vaccine campaigns, but Mr Javid has instead that the move will “future proof the great British vaccination effort … and will ensure we can protect even more people in the years ahead”.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) added that the new deals for vaccines are in addition to the 35 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine ordered in August, 60 million doses of Novarax, and 7.5 million doses of GSK-Sanofi, which are expected in 2022.
There is ample supply of both Moderna and Pfizer for the expanded booster programme announced by the Prime Minister recently, which aims to be able to offer all adults over the age of 18 in the UK the third jab by the end of January 2022.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has encouraged ministers to procure mRNA vaccines, made by Pfizer and Moderna, for the booster campaign.
Data from booster trials have suggested that they are generally well-tolerated and provide a significant increase in vaccine-induced immune responses, and that mRNA vaccines are best for a strong booster effect.
Mr Javid said: “Thanks to the Vaccines Taskforce, we have an excellent track record of securing the vaccines the country needs to keep this virus at bay.
“This is a national mission and our best weapon to deal with this virus and its variants is to get jabs in arms – so when you are called forward, get the jab and get boosted.”
However, the news came just hours after global health leaders questioned the need for a booster campaign in the UK, and the World Health Organisation’s chief scientist, Dr Soumya Swaminathan said it was not the right goal for leaders to focus on.
“There isn’t a whole lot of evidence that everybody over the age of 18, or for that matter above any age, is going to benefit from this,” she said.
But the DHSC is insisting that ‘boosters are vital’, citing evidence from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) that was published in November that said a third dose can give over ’90 per cent protection’ against symptomatic COVID-19 in adults, and this keeps people safe.
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