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AstraZeneca boss issues warning to UK over Covid booster vaccines

Booster vaccines may not be necessary for everyone in Britain and rolling out third doses too quickly would be an “unnecessary burden” on the NHS, the head of AstraZeneca has said.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph alongside the company’s executive vice-president of biopharmaceuticals R&D Sir Mene Pangalos and AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot called for patience from the Government.

They stressed the UK was “a few weeks away” from having a definitive answer on the effectiveness of two doses in providing “continued, protective immunity”.

They said: “Moving too quickly to boost across the entire adult population will deprive us of these insights, leaving this important decision to rest on limited data.

“A third dose for all may be needed, but it may not. Mobilising the NHS for a boosting programme that is not needed would potentially add unnecessary burden on the NHS over the long winter months.

“Because NHS staff and resources are scarce, another national mobilisation would potentially leave us with fewer resources for cancer screenings and the other care provided by doctors and nurses each day.”

Vaccines MinisterNadhim Zahawi recently told MPs a vaccine booster programme is “ready to go” as soon as the scientific advice for the scheme is signed off.

What is the Covid booster vaccine programme?

More than half a million people with severely weakened immune systems and who are most at risk from Covid will be offered another vaccine dose beginning this month, following a recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

However, that announcement is separate from any decision on a booster programme, with news on this expected soon.

The UK’s chief medical officers are also currently reviewing the wider benefits of vaccinating 12 to 15-year-olds after the JCVI declined to recommend a widespread rollout to the age group on health grounds alone.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), a total of 668 deaths registered in the week ending 27 August mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate. This was the highest number since 719 deaths were registered in the week to 26 March.

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