UK decision on Covid vaccine boosters expected on Thursday

Javid also says decision imminent on jabs for 12- to 15-year-olds, and children would be allowed final say on whether to have it

The UK’s vaccines watchdog is expected to decide on Thursday about a Covid booster vaccine programme, with ministers hopeful that approval for vaccinations for 12- to 15-year-olds could follow imminently.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is scheduled to meet on Thursday to examine interim results from the Cov-Boost study, which looks at the impact of one of seven different vaccines as a third dose, on top of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines.

The research, run by Southampton University, is seen as the main element in the JCVI’s deliberations, with the government prepared to begin an immediate programme of widespread booster jabs if this is approved.

Some scientists say there is limited evidence for the efficacy of such jabs beyond people with clinical vulnerabilities, despite countries such as Israel pressing ahead with population-wide boosters.

It is understood that JCVI members will not be shown any material for the meeting before late on Wednesday, in an attempt to prevent leaks.

A week ago, the JCVI approved the use of a third vaccination for half a million people with severely weakened immune systems, although this was presented as separate to a formal booster programme.

Ministers are also awaiting news on 12- to 15-year-olds, after the JCVI said on Friday that the evidence of the clinical benefits of vaccinating this age group was not strong enough to recommend it.

The committee instead suggested ministers ask the four chief medical officers of the UK nations to examine wider factors such as the potential impact of disruption to schools.

Javid said on Wednesday he expected a decision on children to come from the UK’s four chief medical officers within days.

He told Sky News: “I want to give them the breathing space, it’s their independent view and that’s exactly what it should be. But I would expect to hear from them in the next few days.”

He said consent would be sought from parents of 12- to 15-year-olds as it has been “for decades”, but if children and their parents cannot agree, then the child’s view would take precedence as long as they are competent enough to decide.

He said: “If there is a difference of opinion between the child and the parent then we have specialists that work in this area, the schools vaccination service. They would usually literally sit down with the parent and the child, and try to reach some kind of consensus.

“If ultimately that doesn’t work, as along as we believe that the child is competent enough to make this decision then the child will prevail.”

Javid also said he was “very confident” that the UK would have a booster programme so that older adults could receive a third jab.


He told Sky News: “In terms of who actually gets it and when, we’re waiting for final advice which could come across, certainly, in the next few days from the JCVI.”

He said the advice was expected to include information on whether people should get different vaccines from the ones they have already had, adding: “I’m confident that we can start the booster programme this month.”

Scientists on the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) subgroup on modelling said decisions on whether to go ahead with booster vaccines and vaccines for 12- to 15-year-olds were unlikely to make a big difference to the trajectory of cases and hospitalisations over the autumn.

Behavioural changes, such as more mixing indoors and the severity of this year’s flu season are expected to have a bigger impact on cases and the overall burden on the NHS, according to experts, who also said they did not expect to see a steep rise in severe Covid cases over the coming weeks.

Chris Jewell, an epidemiologist at Lancaster University, said: “Based on the current situation, most people are in agreement that we’re not likely to see a massive rise in hospitalisations over the autumn. “Things seem to be quite stable.”

Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said that while he did not expect a surge in Covid cases, flu remained a major concern. “We’re due a bad flu year because we had very little flu last year and less the year before. If you have Covid and you catch flu at the same time you’re twice as likely to die.”


Peter Walker and Rowena Mason

The GuardianTramp

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