- Jeremy Hunt says early boosters will ensure grandparents are well protected
- Ministers face increasing pressure to turbo-charge booster roll out
- More than half of eligible people have not yet received their top-up vaccination
Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt calls for a booster to narrow the gap
The former health secretary today suggested that the Covid booster jabs should be scrapped from five months after the second dose.
People over 50 have to wait half a year after their last vaccine before being eligible for a top-up dose.
But amid rising infection rates and a fast Christmas holiday, Jeremy Hunt has called on ministers to narrow the gap to match Israel’s approach.
He told the House of Commons it would promote regeneration and ensure that millions of vulnerable Britons get the best possible protection before the festive period.
It comes as ministers face mounting pressure to turbo-charge the booster roll out, with less than half of eligible people in England having already received their third dose.
So far only a quarter of care home residents have been vaccinated with additional doses.
Mr Hunt, who also stood for the Conservative leadership, told the Commons: ‘Does it really matter when there are only nine weeks until the Christmas holidays if someone has a booster jab after five months?
‘And shouldn’t we see if there should be flexibility in that decision so that we can get more people for their booster jobs more quickly?’
Out of 8.7 million eligible people (green line) in England, only 4.05 million (purple line) have received a critical third dose, prompting ministers to come forward to get their vaccinations.
The above graph shows the pace of the booster vaccination campaign. It shows the number of doses given in the day in October (orange bar) and the total number of boosters given over time (red line). This is compared to the number of second doses given in April (blue line). Those who received a second dose in April will now get a top-up dose
GPs complain they have no ‘capacity’ to play a major role in accelerating sluggish Covid booster vaccine drive
Top GPs complained yesterday that they were doing too much to help accelerate Britain’s sluggish Covid booster drive, which has seen just a quarter of care home residents.
The slow vaccination roll-out has raised a finger among officials, with the NHS blaming a lack of urgency among the public and insisting there are more than enough doctors, nurses and jabs available.
But Professor Martin Marshall, president of the Royal College of GPs, indicated family doctors were struggling to get into the program as they were already seeing increased demand for appointments and a flu jab campaign.
He told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme: ‘I don’t think common practice should be reverted to the high level of vaccination that we provided early in the pandemic because we don’t have the capacity to do that. We need to take care of our other patients who have other health problems.
‘There are many practices that have had to be taken out of the vaccination program due to heavy pressure’ [they face].’
Health Minister Maggie Throp replied: ‘The JCVI (Joint Committee on Immunization and Immunization) has advised that it should be at least six months from the second time.’
He assured the commons that ‘immunity does not fall from the edge of a cliff’.
‘It’s gone down a bit’ but ‘they still have a huge amount of immunity over people who haven’t got their first jab yet’, she said.
And Ms Throp asked people to come forward ‘as they are eligible’.
The JCVI – which directed the UK vaccine to be rolled out – last month approved a booster dose for those over 50, vulnerable, care home residents and healthcare workers.
But it said that the top up should be given only six months after the second dose as it was a ‘sweet spot’ for boosting immunity.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, head of their vaccine unit, said at the time: ‘We want to recommend the six-month limit as the lower limit because we don’t want people to feel that they need to rush for this booster dose. .
‘Getting a booster dose too early may mean getting a dose when they don’t really need vaccinations because they still have a high level of protection.
‘And, as we’ve seen with the first and second doses, a longer interval to the third booster dose may actually be beneficial in the longer term.’
It takes about two weeks after the third dose is given for immunity to build up against the virus.
Britain’s booster drive is far behind the first vaccine roll out, with just 4.05 (47 per cent) of the 8.7 million eligible people in England having received their top up dose so far.
NHS England data also shows that only 27.8 per cent of care home residents have received their critical third vaccine, along with 14.1 per cent of care home workers, despite being the two high priority groups. About half of people over 80 have received their boosters by now.
Patients say they are struggling to figure out where to get their boosters, amid rising infections on the government and mounting pressure to push the program against a new delta variant.
Members of No10’s own scientific panel publicly called on ministers to expedite the programme, prompting Business Secretary Quasi Quarteng to acknowledge today that it was ‘something we really need to address’ .