Pfizer’s chief executive has said it is likely that repeat doses of the Covid booster vaccine will be necessary to maintain a high level of protection among populations.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme (2 December), Pfizer boss Albert Bourla, predicted ‘as least’ 12 months protection from a booster vaccination.
‘I do not know for sure how long the [immunity from the] booster dose will last. However, I am very confident that it will last at least 12 months.
‘Based on everything we have seen so far, I think it is likely that we will need [boosters] annually to maintain a very robust and a very, very high level of protection,’ he said.
This comes as the Government announced it had secured more than 100 million additional doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which could be used in future booster programmes.
Supplies of vaccines for the current booster campaign were secured in August, but the recent deal adds another 114 million doses to the existing order.
The UK is expecting 60 million of the vaccines from Moderna, and 54 million from Pfizer, to be delivered over the next two years.
This new supply will include modified vaccines if they are needed as new variants emerge.
The new Covid variant, Omicron, was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) from South Africa on Wednesday (24 November). Since then, nine confirmed cases have been reported in the UK.
Early evidence suggests Omicron has a higher reinfection risk than previous variants.
Nadhim Zahawi, former vaccines minister and current education minister revealed earlier this month (November) that ministers are planning to introduce an annual vaccination programme against Covid and any potential variants.
‘Ultimately our plan [is] to be the first major economy to transition from pandemic to endemic and have an annual vaccination programme,’ Mr Zahawi told The Sun.
This month, NHS England increased the standard payment for Covid vaccines to £15 per vaccination, to incentivise pharmacies and GP practices to offer all boosters by January.
The payment for standard Covid vaccines will now be £15 until January, with an additional £5 payment for Sunday vaccinations.
Previously, the payment for pharmacies was £12.58 per vaccination.
Meanwhile, eligibility for Covid boosters has been expanded to all over-18s in response to the Omicron variant.