A COVID-19 booster in the autumn and then annual vaccinations are very probable, Britain’s vaccine deployment minister said on Sunday as countries race to administer injections in the face of new variants.
Britain has already provided nearly 11.5 million first doses of COVID-19 vaccines and is on track to meet a target to vaccinate everyone in the top most vulnerable groups by mid-February.
Among coronavirus variants currently most concerning for scientists and public health experts are the so-called British, South African and Brazilian variants, which appear to spread more swiftly than others.
“We see very much probably an annual or a booster in the autumn and then an annual (vaccination), in the way we do with flu vaccinations where you look at what variant of virus is spreading around the world,” Zahawi said in an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
In another interview with Sky News, Zahawi said the government will not introduce COVID-19 vaccine passports, but people will be able to seek proof from their doctor if needed for travel to other countries.
“We are certainly not looking to introduce it as part of the vaccine deployment program.”
AstraZeneca said on Saturday its vaccine developed with the University of Oxford appeared to offer only limited protection against mild disease caused by the South African variant of COVID-19, based on early data from a trial.
The success of the UK’s vaccine rollout is spurring debate about how soon the government can ease broader lockdown restrictions, amid plans to reopen schools in England in March.