UK reveals vaccine booster trial programme

The UK government has funded new clinical trials to assess the potential for a number of Covid-19 booster vaccines.

More than 2,800 people aged 30 or older will participate in the trials, which will look at seven different Covid-19 vaccines as potential boosters.

The government’s Vaccines Taskforce has allocated £19.3m of funding to the plans.

“We will do everything we can to future-proof this country from pandemics and other threats to our health security, and the data from this world-first clinical trial will help shape the plans for our booster programme later this year,” health secretary Matt Hancock said during a 19 May press conference.

Volunteers will be given the “booster”, which could be a different brand to the drug they were originally vaccinated with, ten to 12 weeks after their second dose.

The initial results are expected from September, the health secretary added, and will determine the impact of a third dose on immune responses.

The Oxford AstraZeneca and Pfizer BioNTech jabs are among the vaccines being trialed, as well as Moderna, Novavax, Valvena, Janssen and Curevac.

Three sites in London are taking part in the trials: University College Hospital, Guys and St Thomas Hospital, and Northwick Park Harrow.

Hancock also announced that he would soon be inviting other health ministers in the G7 group of nations to Oxford for meetings on the future of pandemic response plans.

Separately, Hancock said the government is “throwing everything” at the Indian variant after cases increased by 28% in two days, adding that evidence now shows that the variant is passed on more easily than the one first detected in Kent last year.

“We must proceed with vigilance and with everyone taking personal responsibility,” he told the press conference. “It is even more important that people get vaccinated.”

Speaking in the House of Commons on 19 May, health secretary Matt Hancock said that there were now 2,967 cases of the Indian variant in the UK, up from 2,323 on 17 May.

In a press conference that day, Hancock had urged the country to remain “humble in the face of this virus”, encouraging people to turn up for their vaccination appointments.

In parliament on 19 May, prime minister Boris Johnson told MPs that the government had “increasing confidence” that vaccines are effective against all variants, including the Indian strain.

READ Hancock urges ‘humility’ in face of virus as Indian variant soars

The variant was first detected in India in December, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. The UK classified it as a “variant of concern” on 7 May.

Public Health England has said it is “actively monitoring the impact of this variant and its severity” and is encouraging people to continue to “work from home where you can”.

According to the latest statistics, 2,412 people tested positive for Covid-19 on 18 May and seven people died within 28 days of a positive test, the government’s figures show.

More than 38 million people have received the first dose of the vaccine and 20.5 million were fully vaccinated as of 17 May.

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Bérengère Sim

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