Top Government scientist says Covid booster jabs can be given to young adults and middle age as soon as 32m is over 50.

  • Professor John Edmunds stated that vaccines work well but their protection is declining.
  • Third doses should then be offered to eligible groups and then to younger people. 
  • His comments come amid calls to speed up the sluggish booster drive 

SAGE scientist Professor John Edmunds said vaccines 'still work very well' but the protection they provide is dropping over time

SAGE scientist Professor John Edmunds said vaccines ‘still work very well’ but the protection they provide is dropping over time

The Covid booster vaccine programme should be expanded to middle-aged and young adults once vulnerable groups have been offered a third jab, a top Government scientist said today.

Professor John Edmunds agreed that the boosters should be dished out ‘as fast as possible’ for the elderly and patients with underlying conditions because they are at the highest risk of waning immunity.

But he said it would ‘help’ if the vaccine drive was opened up to Britons under the age of 50 ‘in time’.

Professor Edmunds, a modeller at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme: ‘The vaccines still work very well but the level of protection they’re affording us is falling somewhat and it looks like its falling quicker in the most at risk groups — the elderly and so on.

‘So I think it’s right that they are offered a booster dose as fast as possible. I think that’s really important that we vaccinate our older population as fast as we can.

‘And I think it would also help if we vaccinate – offer boosters doses in time to younger individuals as well.’ 

About 32million over-50s, health and social care workers and people with underlying conditions are eligible for the top-up jabs currently.

They are available to eligible groups from six months after they received their second dose. Scientists say this is the ‘sweet spot’ for immunity.

As it stands, there are no plans to expand the rollout to other cohorts. The Government’s vaccine advisory panel, the JCVI, said last month that the vaccines were still doing their job in younger groups.

The group said it did not want to fall into a pattern of having to constantly revaccinate everyone.

His comments are made amid calls for a faster booster drive to boost the sluggish economy,so half a million jabs a day are dished out.

Some 6.4million boosters have been administered as of Monday, when 244,992 people came forward for the top-up injection.

Sir Keir Sternmer, Labour leader, said last week that the programme wouldn’t be completed before next spring if the drive wasn’t speeded up.

Booster jabs are part of the Government’s “Plan A” to suppress Covid cases this winter.

It happens as Covid cases dropped for the third day in row yesterday. Hospitalisations plummeted by six per cent, and deaths rose by almost a fifth. 

Professor Edmunds stated that No10’s modellers agree that cases will plateau and then fall over the next few weeks.

He said, “That’s because the epidemic over the last few months is really driven by huge amounts of cases among children.” I mean a really large number of cases in children. 

“And that will eventually result in high levels of immune system in children and it may well be that we’re already achieving that.” 

Or achieving, I think it is the wrong term. But it might be that we are getting high levels immunity in children because of these very high rates of infections we have had. This may start to level out.

“I should also add that the models agree that we could get an increase later on because of different things – due waning immunity, normality.

He stated that the UK’s large testing capacities skew figures in comparison to other countries that don’t test as often.

However, this doesn’t explain “all the differences”, as other countries have restrictions like mandatory masks or vaccine passports.  

He said that UK cases are expected to fall from the current’very peak’ but that similar measures would likely lead to rates falling faster. 

Official data shows that 95% of 16-to-24-year-olds have Covid antibodies.

Graph shows: The proportion of people in different age groups who tested positive for Covid antibodies (green line), have had a first vaccine dose (light blue line) and second vaccine dose (dark blue line) from the weeks beginning December 7 to September 27

Graph shows: The percentage of people who tested positive for Covid antibodies in different age groups, have had a first (light blue) and second (dark) vaccine doses from the weeks starting December 7 through September 27.

According to official data, more than 95% of 16- and 24-year-olds living in England have Covid antibodies.

Office for National Statistics figures released today show 92.2 per cent of the adult population tested positive for the virus-fighting proteins in the week ending October 3.

Despite less than half of those aged 16 to 24 having had both Covid vaccines, 95.6 per cent of people in the age group are estimated to have the antibodies — suggesting natural infection has helped build their immunity. 

This proportion was even higher for Northern Ireland (95.8%) and about the same in Wales and Scotland (95.4%). 

According to the ONS: “Our survey showed that in the week ending September 27, the percentage adults testing positive for coronavirus antibody remained high. 

“It has increased among younger adults and is showing signs a slow decline among older adults. 

“We estimate that antibody positivity for people aged 16-24 years has increased steadily across all four UK nations, with estimates ranging from 95.4 to 95.8 percentage across the UK, for week beginning September 27, 2009.