Booster jabs to protect against emerging new variants of coronavirus may be required in autumn, the UK's Vaccines Minister has said.
Appearing on The Andrew Marr Show on 7 February, Nadhim Zahawi said that the UK has the ability to "quickly" sequence the genomes of new variants, and is talking to the manufacturers about creating new, modified versions of vaccines to tackle the changes.
He said: “I was speaking to [deputy chief medical officer] Jonathan Van-Tam this morning. We see very much probably an annual or booster in the autumn and then an annual [jab], in the way we do with flu vaccinations where you look at what variant of virus is spreading around the world, rapidly produce a variant of vaccine and then begin to vaccinate and protect the nation.”
His comments come in the wake of AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine manufacturers saying that their vaccine can only provide limited protection against mild and moderate illnesses caused by the South African coronavirus variant - of which over 100 cases have been detected in the UK.
An AstraZeneca spokesperson said, however, that they believe the vaccine is able to protect against severe cases caused by the variant. They said researchers have already started adapting the vaccine against the South African variant and would “advance rapidly through clinical development so that it is ready for autumn delivery, should it be needed."
With Boris Johnson set to lay out the Government's plan for exiting lockdown in the coming weeks, Mr Zahawi said he was confident the "tough" target of immunising everyone over 50 by May was achievable.