The most vulnerable members of the population will likely need booster jabs especially suited to Covid mutations “every year”, the Prime Minister has said.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, Boris Johnson said: “As new variants appear, it will be more useful than ever to have vaccines that combat all variants.
“I think we need to be getting ready for a world in which we do have booster jabs against new variants in the autumn and maybe beyond. We should start to think about it as a flu jab — as something elderly and vulnerable people make sure they have every year.”
The PM added that he had “no doubt [that] vaccines will get better and better at being able to cover all variants,” amid concerns about emerging Covid mutations.
The government last week announced it had ordered 50m doses of a new Covid vaccine being developed by German biotech firm CureVac that will target emerging coronavirus mutations.
It comes amid mounting concerns new coronavirus strains may prove partially resistant to available Covid vaccines.
Surge testing was rolled out in the London borough of Lambeth last night, after new cases of “variants of concern” are thought to have spread to the capital.
So far, 147 cases of the South African variant have been identified in Britain. Scientists are concerned that its new E484K mutation, also found in the Brazil variant and a small number of mutated versions of the Kent variant, may evade the immune system.
Johnson also confirmed leaked documents last week revealing the government’s plans to offer a first dose of the vaccine to the top nine priority groups by the end of April.
He praised the rollout of the jab so far, which has seen more than 13m people across the country receive their first injection — equivalent to around a quarter of the UK’s adult population.
Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, added that the vaccine will provide further protection against Covid on top of antibodies, noting that past infection of the virus “is not a reason to avoid vaccination”.
The Prime Minister refuse to provide clarity over whether current restrictions will be eased in time for summer holidays, saying he would outline further details on 22 February.
“That is the best I can give. There’s not an awful long delay between now and the 22nd, but I hope we will be able to give some more clarity to people then,” said Johnson.
The transport secretary revealed this morning that ministers are in discussions with other countries over the creation of an international vaccine certification system that would allow a partial resumption of travel.
Grant Shapps told the BBC he has spoken to his counterparts in the US and Singapore about the creation of an internationally recognisable system of proving people have been vaccinated.
However he warned that holidays may be off the cards for quite some time as Britain attempts to ward off the threat of emerging Covid variants.
“I can’t give you a definitive answer on whether we will be able to take holidays, either at home or abroad,” Shapps told Sky News. “Nobody can tell from the point at which we are sitting right now. What we are dealing with now are new variants, and we cannot risk it.”