No decision made on when COVID-19 vaccine booster campaign will start, says minister

Nadhim Zahawi told an All-Party Parliamentary Health Group that the NHS has the infrastructure in place to provide COVID-19 boosters from September 2021.
Nadhim Zahawi, UK minister for COVID-19 vaccine deployment

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The clinical decision on when a COVID-19 booster campaign will go ahead later in 2021 has yet to be made, the government’s vaccines minister has said.

Speaking at an All-Party Parliamentary Health Group meeting on 10 June 2021, Nadhim Zahawi, minister for COVID-19 vaccine deployment, said the NHS “will be ready to boost from September [2021] onwards in terms of the deployment infrastructure”.

However, he said the decision around when the plan will go ahead “hasn’t been made yet”.

This comes after the government first announced plans for a COVID-19 revaccination campaign in February 2021 as part of its roadmap to ease lockdown restrictions introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the plans, the booster campaign was “likely to run later in autumn or winter [2021]”, with pharmacy bodies saying at the time that community pharmacies would play a “key part” in the campaign.

But Zahawi said the decision to move forward with the revaccination campaign “is a clinical decision, so the question is what is the durability of the vaccine, especially for those most vulnerable cohorts”.

“So we’ll be ready … but that clinical decision will be up to Chris Whitty and the chief medical officers of the devolved administrations and the [Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation] as to when we start,” he said. “From a deployment consideration, we’re ready to go.”

“Ultimately, we’re going to be in a world where we transition from pandemic to endemic and have an annual vaccination programme for COVID-19 as we do with flu.”

In May 2021, the government announced the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine booster trial, with the first study participant receiving a third dose of vaccine on 1 June 2021.

Zahawi added that, as part of plans for the booster trial, the government is “in late stage negotiations for a vaccine variant from AstraZeneca that may deal with some of the virus variants that are challenging for us”.

The trial aims to recruit more than 2,800 participants to take part in testing the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Novavax, Valneva, Janssen and Curevac vaccines.

READ MORE: Ten things pharmacists should know about COVID-19 vaccines

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, June 2021, Vol 306, No 7950;306(7950)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2021.1.90688

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