People will have to get used to the idea of annual revaccination against the CCP virus as new variants emerge, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday.
“I think we’re going to have to get used to the idea of vaccinating and then re-vaccinating in the autumn as we come to face these new variants,” he said during Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament.
The idea had been floated by Nadhim Zahawi, the UK’s vaccine deployment minister, on Sunday, when he told the BBC that a “booster” in the autumn and then annual vaccinations with updated jabs are very probable.
Johnson told a Downing Street press briefing on Wednesday afternoon that just over 13 million people have now been vaccinated across the UK, including one in four adults in England, over 90 percent of everyone over 75, and over 90 percent of eligible residents of care homes for the elderly.
But the emergence of new variants of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known the novel coronavirus, has led to fears that the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines could be compromised.
Of particular concern is the E484K spike protein mutation, which has been found to result in weaker neutralisation by antibodies in laboratory experiments.
It is present on a number of variants found around the world, including the South African variant, which has been found to be more resistant to antibodies and reduces the efficacy of vaccines.
A new study publicised last week showed that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine offers minimal protection against mild and moderate cases of the South African variant.
Earlier this week, British health authorities announced that they had identified two more COVID-19 variants in Liverpool and Bristol, both of which have the E484K mutation.
“As new variants appear, it will be more useful than ever to have vaccines that can combat all variants and, yes, I certainly think we need to be getting ready for a world in which we do have booster jabs against new variants in the autumn,” Johnson said at the Downing Street press briefing.
“We should start to think about it as a flu jab, something the elderly or vulnerable people make sure they have every year. And I’ve no doubt that the vaccines will get better and better at being able to cover for all variants.”
He stressed that the vaccines in use are “safe and effective,” and welcomed the World Health Organisation’s confirmation earlier on Wednesday of its support for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for use in everyone over the age of 18, even in countries where new variants of the virus are present.
AstraZeneca said earlier this month that the firm and the University of Oxford aim to have an updated vaccine to address the different CCP virus variants by the autumn.
Simon Veazey contributed to this report.