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.