Vaccine group chief: UK booster plan does not mean shots every six months

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The chair of Britain’s vaccine group said it was unclear whether or not there would be a recurrent program of COVID vaccine boosters every six months after a plan announced on Tuesday to offer people over 50 with a third shot this winter.

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“The advice today does not imply that there will be a recurrent program of booster doses every six months,” said Professor Lim Wei Shen, chair for COVID-19 immunization on the government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization.

“I don’t think I can say very much about the future booster programs because we just don’t have the data.”

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization’s recommendation of a third dose six months after a second shot, paves the way for a broad revaccination program in Britain, which has one of the world’s highest death tolls from COVID-19.

It comes ahead of an announcement by the government on its strategy for taming infections this winter, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other officials warning that the battle against the virus was not over.

“Our latest estimates are that since we began deploying these vaccines, they’ve probably averted in the region of 24 million cases of COVID in the UK and 112,000 deaths - so incredibly successful to date and remains so,” England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam told reporters.

“We’re not past the pandemic. We know this winter could quite possibly be bumpy at times.”

The government has already indicated it would scrap plans for vaccine passports to be required to get into nightclubs, end some of its emergency COVID powers and use lockdowns only as a last resort.

Instead, Johnson will lean on vaccines and testing to try and contain COVID-19 heading into autumn and winter.

“The pandemic is far from over, but thanks to our phenomenal vaccine program, new treatments and testing we are able to live with the virus without significant restrictions on our freedoms,” Johnson said in a statement.

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