Britain has bought a two-year supply of covid boosters after health secretary Sajid Javid vowed to “future proof” the NHS vaccines drive.
The country has just bought enough covid vaccines to provide a fourth and fifth booster dose per person, under a deal to provide jabs that can be modified against the new Omicron variant.
Sajid Javid said a new deal for 114 million doses of Moderna and Pfizer in 2022 and 2023 would help to keep the public protected “for years to come”.
The deal includes 60 million additional doses of the Moderna vaccine and 54 million more Pfizer/BioNTech doses. Officials said the Government already had enough supply of both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech for the current booster program.
Health chiefs are scrambling to accelerate the current program so all eligible adults can be offered a third jab by the end of January, in an attempt to protect people from the omicron variant.
Nine more cases of the variant were identified in England on Wednesday, taking the total number of confirmed UK cases to 32. Work is underway to establish if there are links to travel to southern Africa, with health officials warning that more cases are “very likely”.
On Wednesday, an Israeli cardiologist identified as one of the first people in the world to be infected with omicron said he believed he caught it while in London last month, attending a heart conference attended by more than 1,200 medics.
The disclosure raised concerns that the variant arrived in this country earlier than was known, with fears it could have spread at the event at ExCeL London more than a week ago.
On Wednesday, daily reported cases of coronavirus doubled in South Africa, rising to 8,561. The omicron variant has been found to account for three-quarters of virus genomes sequenced in the country since it was identified last month.
Meanwhile Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, called on EU member states to consider making Covid vaccinations mandatory, while the World Health Organisation reported that the variant had so far been found in 23 countries.
In this country, health officials are attempting to draw up plans to administer boosters to more than 25 million people aged 18 and over in two months.
A senior WHO official is questioning the UK government’s decision to provide covid boosters to its adult population, cautioning that there was “no evidence” this would offer “any greater protection” to the healthy.
Dr. Mike Ryan – head of the agency’s emergencies program – made his comments ahead Sajid Javid’s announcement on Thursday that the UK had secured an additional two year supply of vaccine doses.
Ryan said: Right now, there is no evidence that I’m aware of that would suggest that boosting the entire population would necessarily provide any greater protection for otherwise healthy individuals against hospitalization and death.