Watch: Vaccines minister insists booster will only be offered 'after looking at data'
The government has insisted no decision has been made on whether over-50s will get a booster COVID vaccination before the end of the year.
The paper claims the booster jabs would only be offered to the over-50s and those with underlying health conditions.
However, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi refused to confirm the report, telling Sky News this morning no decision had been made about when or how the third jabs would be deployed.
He said: “Clinicians haven’t yet made the decision when they will need to boost, whether to give more immunity to the most vulnerable, to increase the durability of the protection or to deal with the variant...
“There’s a clinical trial that [deputy chief medical officer] Jonathan Van-Tam is conducting called ‘Cov boost’ which looks at which vaccine delivers the best boost.”
When asked why the government has ordered another 60 million Pfizer vaccine shots for booster shots later this year, Zahawi told Sky News that scientists are “looking at the data to see whether the durability of the current vaccination programme, how far it lasts”.
And despite insisting no decision had been made on when the jabs would be given, he nevertheless admitted the government wanted to be able to offer them “if they need to, from September”.
He said England’s chief medical officer professor Chris Whitty was looking at the protection and durability of the current vaccines.
Zahawi added to BBC Breakfast: “We want to give the scientists... as many options, to be able to deploy a booster.”
According to The Times, two trials into further deployment of the vaccine are under way – either by modifying current jabs to combat any variants, or by supplying the third shot to boost protection for the most vulnerable.
Zahawi said clinical trials are taking place to determine which vaccine gives the “best boost”.
The vaccines minister also said the multimillion-pound investment in testing facilities at Porton Down would “future-proof” the UK against new COVID variants.
He said the new investment will deliver in January next year, adding that the current vaccination programme was “working effectively against the dominant virus in the UK”.
With over 50 million COVID vaccinations given in the UK so far, Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures released today showed that a total of 260 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending 23 April mentioned COVID on the death certificate – the lowest number since the week ending 25 September.
Deaths involving COVID among people aged 70 and over have also fallen by 98% since the second-wave peak, the latest ONS figures suggest.
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