Government Increases Supply of COVID-19 Vaccines After Omicron

Priscilla Lynch 

December 06, 2021

Helping to deliver a promise made by the Government last week to offer every eligible person aged 18 or over a booster jab, and estimated 30 million doses, in the next 2 months, the government signed new contracts to secure the supply of COVID-19 vaccines.

This comes as the public is being urged to get a COVID-19 booster vaccine to top-up their protection by Christmas, in light of the new Omicron variant. Almost 20 million people in the UK were expected to have had their third jabs on Sunday, December 5.

Fast-tracked Due to Omicron Variant

The future supply deals with Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, both mRNA vaccines, were fast-tracked due the emergence of the new Omicron variant and include access to modified vaccines, if they are needed, to combat Omicron and "future variants of concern, to prepare for all eventualities", according to a statement released by the Department of Health and Social Care.

Over the weekend, a further 75 cases of the Omicron variant were detected in England, bringing the total number of cases to 104. In Scotland, a further 16 cases have been identified, bringing the total to 29.

The agreements signed through the Vaccine Taskforce will see the government procure a total of 114 million additional doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for 2022 and 2023 (60 million of Moderna, 54 million from Pfizer/BioNTech). This is in addition to the 35 million additional doses of Pfizer/BioNTech ordered in August for delivery in the second half of 2022, and the 60 million Novavax and 7.5 million GSK/Sanofi doses expected next year.

mRNA Vaccines Offer Stronger Booster Effect

For the booster programme, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are offered. This was based on data from the COV-BOOST trial, that reported that mRNA vaccines, in particular, offered a strong booster effect.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: "These new deals will future-proof the Great British vaccination effort – which has so far delivered more than 115 million first, second and booster jabs across the UK – and will ensure we can protect even more people in the years ahead."

The most recent evidence from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) shows that protection against symptomatic disease from the Delta variant falls from 65%, up to 3 months after the second dose, to 45% 6 months after the second dose for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and from 90% to 65% for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Protection against hospitalisation falls from 95% to 75% for Oxford/AstraZeneca and 99% to 90% for Pfizer/BioNTech.

The UK Health Security Agency published the results of a study in November showed that boosters give over 90% protection against symptomatic COVID-19 in adults aged over 50.

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