UK Covid booster not necessary for all, says Oxford jab scientist Sarah Gilbert

Gilbert suggests extra doses should go instead to countries with low vaccination rates

One of the leading scientists behind the Oxford vaccine for Covid-19 has said she does not support a widespread booster jab campaign in the UK as immunity among fully vaccinated people is “lasting well”.

Prof Dame Sarah Gilbert, who developed the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, one of the most widely used Covid vaccines in the world, suggested extra doses should be directed to countries with a low rate of vaccination.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has said the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs are safe to use as boosters, but the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has yet to give its advice to ministers.

Gilbert’s comments came as data was presented to the JCVI that indicated a top-up Pfizer vaccine dose several months after a second jab greatly boosted the body’s immune response to Covid-19, according to the Times.

Gilbert told the Daily Telegraph that elderly people and those with weakened immune systems should be in line for a third jab, but “I don’t think we need to boost everybody”.

“As the virus spreads between people, it mutates and adapts and evolves, like the Delta variant,” she said. “With these outbreaks, we want to stop that as quickly as possible. We will look at each situation; the immunocompromised and elderly will receive boosters. But I don’t think we need to boost everybody. Immunity is lasting well in the majority of people.”

Gilbert has previously highlighted the wide disparity in vaccination rates between different countries, suggesting jabs should be sent to those areas where availability is low to vaccinate everybody once, rather than some people three times.

She said: “We need to get vaccines to countries where few of the population have been vaccinated so far. We have to do better in this regard. The first dose has the most impact.”


The JCVI is expected to give its advice on who should receive a booster shot within days. It has already said a third dose should be offered to people with severely weakened immune systems.

The UK culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, told Sky News on Friday the government had committed to starting the booster programme in September and it would begin this month.

“We will start the booster programme later in September. We’re just awaiting the final JCVI advice on exactly who will be getting that booster and the exact criteria for that.

“I don’t know exactly when the JCVI are going to make their announcement. But we’re committed to it in September so I would expect it very shortly.”

Responding to Gilbert, Dowden said: “There’s a range of opinion among scientists that’s why we have JCVI to give us the authoritative advice and we’ll follow that advice.

“In terms of other countries, we’ve committed to 100m jabs going by 2022. We’ve already delivered 9m, so it’s not an either or. We’re doing both of those things.

“Pretty much all nations are looking at a booster programme. Israel are already doing it. We’re not an outlier on this.”

The JCVI is looking at the latest data from the Cov-Boost trial run by University Hospital Southampton. The £19.3m UK clinical trial is testing the Pfizer jab alongside those from AstraZeneca, Moderna, Novavax, Janssen from Johnson & Johnson, Valneva and CureVac.

The study aims to answer key questions such as whether people who have had two doses of AstraZeneca may get more benefit if they have a third dose of Pfizer.

The new MHRA guidance says Pfizer boosters can be given to anyone, regardless of which doses they had previously. However, AstraZeneca boosters will only be given to those who previously had the AstraZeneca jab.

The latest government data showed that up to 8 September, 48,344,566 people had received a first dose of vaccine, a rise of 25,131 on the previous day, while 43,708,906 had received both shots, an increase of 87,960.

The government said a further 167 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Thursday, bringing the UK total by that measure to 133,841.

As of 9am on Thursday, there had been a further 38,013 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK, the government said.

Prof Sir Andrew Pollard, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said the world needed to “turn the tap on” to fight the “fire” of coronavirus internationally.

“At this moment there is a fire raging all around the world with huge pressure on health systems in many, many countries,” he told the BBC’s Today programme.

“At the G7 meeting in early June there were very substantial pledges of money and of vaccines. A lot of that money has flowed, so Covax is now in a very good position to start buying their fire hoses for that fire.

“What we really need is to turn the tap on and get the water to those countries, and we need that to happen today.”


Jamie Grierson

The GuardianTramp

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