“The most likely date will be September. Jonathan Van-Tam [England’s deputy chief medical officer] thinks that if we are going to see a requirement for a booster jab to protect the most vulnerable, [it] would be around September,” Zahawi said.
Current vaccines have varying efficacy against new variants of the disease, and the British plan is to provide booster shots for people in the main priority groups, which include those over 70, as well as healthcare and social workers.
Papers released by the U.K.’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies warned that current vaccines may be less effective against new variants like the South African one.
More than 120,000 people have died from the disease in the U.K., one of the highest death tolls in Europe, but more than 40 percent of the U.K. population has so far received at least one vaccine shot, far more than any EU country. The British government’s goal is to offer a first jab to all adults by end of July.
Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron has promised all French adults will be offered a first jab by the end of the summer. France is lagging behind, with the over-70s only getting access to the first jab as of this week.
Many countries in the EU are dealing with a third wave and tightening restrictions. Spanish authorities announced Saturday that travellers going by car from France would need to show a negative PCR test, within fewer than 72 hours. Those restrictions do not apply to cross-border workers, border residents or freight drivers. On Friday, Germany designated France as a “high-risk zone.”
The U.K. is also looking at setting up drive-through vaccination for the under-50s, in an effort to make the process more convenient and encourage those who might be more reticent to get vaccinated, according to Zahawi.
“It’s a great way as you do the under-50s, the under-40s, under-30s. Convenience becomes a much greater tool to deploy because you want to make sure for those people, where we think there may be greater hesitancy, we make it as convenient as we can make it,” Zahawi said.
The U.K. is easing its restrictions starting Monday, with outside gatherings of six people or two households allowed, after months of strict lockdown.