IT is ‘critical’ to accelerate booster jabs rollout – five million Britons have yet to have their third dose, an expert has warned.
Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London also said teenagers needed to get two shots to prevent infection and the spread of the virus.
It comes as cases have hit their highest level in three months, and a cabinet minister said the key to escaping Covid restrictions this winter.
Business Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan urged Brits to come forward for top up shots and help maintain the “new normal”.
His remarks come amid growing fears that a slow rollout of the third dose will leave the UK vulnerable to a third wave.
There are concerns that immunity in people who first received the vaccine at the beginning of the year is now declining.
Prof Ferguson, whose data was crucial for the UK going into lockdown in March 2020, said the UK has more Covid cases than other countries for a number of reasons.
“First, we have less functional immunity in our population than in most Western European countries and this is for two reasons,” he said.
“Partly, we were very successful in introducing vaccination early and we know that immunity gradually decreases over time when you have a second dose, so how early we were means that We are a little more vulnerable.
“Second, we relied more on the AstraZeneca vaccine and, while it protects very well against the very serious consequences of covid, it protects slightly less well against infection and transmission than Pfizer, particularly Front of the Delta version.
“And finally, we sit behind some other countries, not dramatically, but we are no longer in the top ranks of European countries in terms of overall vaccination coverage, especially vaccination to adolescents.”
And now number 10 has indicated that there may be a need to bring work-from-home masks and Covid passports this winter.
Ministers are increasingly concerned about the number of new cases rising to 50,000 a day.
Hospital admissions are also increasing, though only steadily, and are currently below last month’s levels.
Ms Trevelyan said: “We are encouraging everyone who is vulnerable, anyone who is over 50, please make sure you get your booster jab.”
He said doing so would “help ensure that we are able to live back into the new normal that we have been able to do as a result of the incredible vaccine program”.
More than three million Britons have received their top up shot so far.
Rollout ‘too slow’
But experts have warned that the pace of the rollout is currently too slow to avoid the risk of overburdening the NHS this winter.
The Joint Committee on Immunization and Immunization will meet today to discuss expanding it to immunosuppressed people.
The booster is being used to strengthen immunity in the most vulnerable of society, who got their first two times several months ago.
The third shot is central to the government’s Plan A for COVID during the winter.
But most at-risk people haven’t found their extra pockets yet, and may not last several more weeks or months into the winter.
The NHS says people will be invited to have a booster jab at least six months after their second dose, when the effects begin to wear off.
This means those who received a second dose on or before mid-April are currently being invited.
Of the 30 million people in England who are recommended for boosters, about 6.5 million are now eligible.
The NHS says some 3.1 million (10 percent of the total who need one) have been given their third shot.
I think it’s important that we accelerate the booster program.
Professor Neil Ferguson
Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and deputy lead for the NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme, said the response so far has been “superb”.
But experts fear it may not be fast enough to reverse the declining immunity in the population.
Data from the ZOE Covid Symptom Study found that after six months, protection from the Pfizer vaccine fell to 74 percent and the AstraZeneca jab to 67 percent.
The lead of the study, Professor Tim Spector, pointed out that the vaccine program was “flagging off” and “not meeting the demand for boosters and immunizing more than 67 percent”.
Professor Ravi Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NervTag), is an expert calling for the government’s Plan B to be implemented now.
Some experts want Plan B, which includes bringing back masks and working from home and introducing vaccine passports, to be activated now.
One of them is Professor Ravi Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag).
They told financial Times: “We rely heavily on our relatively modest vaccination coverage as our only line of defense.”
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