Covid booster jab trial underway ahead of autumn vaccine drive

Booster jabs may offer further protection from Covid-19. Credit: PA

A Covid booster jab programme is being trialled ahead of a further vaccine drive in the autumn, the health secretary has said.

Matt Hancock told BBC Breakfast the government was "currently trialling which combinations of jabs are the most effective".

He said that while second jabs offer very strong protection "there is more protection still that we think that you can get from a booster jab." Mr Hancock added: "When we know the results of that, then we will set out the full plans for the booster programme over the autumn. "We've got to make sure we get the logistics right; for instance, GPs have been so heavily involved in this vaccination effort, but GPs have also got to do their day job, so that's something we're working hard on now, and, in the next few weeks, when we get the clinical data through on what's the most effective combinations to have... then we'll set out all the details of the booster programme for the autumn." Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs’ Council, suggested booster campaigns might be conducted by non-clinical, trained staff to free up time for doctors and nurses.

More than half the UK population has now had at least one Covid jab. Credit: PA

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We do need to (look) into what the programme looks like for an endemic condition, when we’re outside the crisis mode that we’ve been in the last six months.

“We do need to know, first of all, whether a booster vaccination programme is needed? Who will need it? We need to know where it will be given and by whom.

“In general practice, for example, where three-quarters of the vaccines have been given, our GPs and nurses are exceptionally busy. Is it possible that a booster campaign can be given by non-clinical trained vaccination staff?”

He added that general practices administer large flu campaigns in the winter and asked whether it would be possible to give a Covid-19 jab at the same time as “clearly that would be a very efficient process”.

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said decisions about future Covid-19 vaccine booster campaigns would be data-driven but would consider the need for planning within the NHS.

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He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The most key question is how long do these vaccines last? ie. what is the duration of protection?

"Whether we can mix vaccine schedules is important and the government have commissioned a study which will be reporting on mixing the schedules of seven different vaccines – AstraZeneca; Pfizer; Moderna; Novavax; Janssen; CuraVac and Valneva."

He said any booster campaign would need to think about who it would target.

"Those that received the vaccine furthest away – when we started in December last year and January – were the very elderly and vulnerable, and, of course, it will be many months since they’d have their vaccine, so we do need to think about whether we need to boost those particular age groups," Professor Harnden said.