Last night Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that all second jabs for those under 40 will be delivered after eight weeks instead of 12. The change of plans for the dosing strategy came as just part of the many changes announced in anticipation ofJuly 19.
No10 Downing Street announced that the vaccine schedule changes aim to have all Briton adults fully vaccinated by mid-September when COVID rates and NHS pressures are expected to rise.
Last month the gap was also shortened for older and more vulnerable residents to provide optimum protection against the now dominant Delta variant.
Originally, second doses of both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines were to be administered after just three weeks as per the trial. However, in an initial push to get as many first jabs in as possible, the UK pushed the vaccine gap to twelve weeks. The move was considered controversial at first, but studies have since shown that the actions could have prevented unnecessary deaths.
Latest figures show that another 200,000 jabs were administered on Sunday, with 111,410 of them being second doses. Now, a total of 45 million Brits have had at least one jab, while 33 million are fully inoculated.
Moral dilemma between boosters and vaccine donations
After successful trials, ministers are now also considering whether or not to roll out a booster programme this Autumn.
Recent research from Oxford shows that a booster shot would restore COVID antibody levels to their peak, providing a welcomed top-up for those over 50, NHS staff and vulnerable residents and their carers.
But the booster decision also poses a moral dilemma as developing countries are facing significant vaccine shortages.
Sir Andrew Pollard, one of the leading researchers behind the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, claims that a booster rollout would be ‘difficult to justify’ given the situations in poorer nations and that ‘we do not have the evidence yet that we need boosters.’
Sir Andrew took to The Times today to explain that only six months have passed since the first round of second doses were administered, making it ‘too early to make the call.’
If a booster is not needed yet, it may be better to wait, since they usually work better when given later.
Ahead of the recent G7 summit, Boris Johnson also pledged alongside other major leaders to donate surplus vaccines to developing countries. Johnson revealed that 100 million vaccines would be donated over the next year, with the first five million to be contributed by September.
What other changes were announced for Freedom Day?
Last night’s Downing Street conference saw a confident Boris Johnson reveal that the final step of lockdown lifting should go ahead on the 19th of July.However, the date will be confirmed on the 12th after the latest data is released.
Changes expected on the 19th of July include:
- All businesses - including nightclubs - that are still closed will be allowed to reopen.
- Legal limitations on social distancing will also be removed. That means there will be no more restrictions on social gatherings, and large-scale events will be allowed to return at total capacity.
- Social distancing will also no longer be required, except for in areas such as airports.
- Table service rules in hospitality venues will also be scrapped.
- Domestic vaccine certifications will no longer be required- although businesses will be allowed to adopt the scheme if they wish.
- Limits on the number of named visitors in care homes will also be dropped, but some infection control measures such as PPE may remain.
- Mask wearing will no longer be a legal requirement
Further updates on travel and self-isolation will also arrive in the following days, with ministers working to scrap isolation requirements for fully vaccinated residents.
Johnson warned that coronavirus cases are expected to rise to 50,000 per day by the end of the month but explained that the country must learn to live with the virus and ‘reconcile ourselves, sadly, to more deaths from COVID.’
If we don't go ahead now when we've clearly done so much with the vaccination programme to break the link... when would we go ahead?
He continued: ‘We run the risk of either opening up at a very difficult time when the virus has an edge, has an advantage, in the cold months, or again putting everything off to next year.’