Covid booster shots not needed this winter as two jabs are so effective, says Oxford expert

THE Oxford vaccine is so effective that autumn booster shots may not be needed, its makers have said.

Protection against the virus remains for at least a year after just one dose – and stays at more than 90 per cent “for quite some months” with two jabs, new tests have shown.

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Oxford announced today its vaccine CAN be used as a third-dose booster following trials, producing “a substantial increase in antibodies”.

But Prof Sir Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said: “There’s no indication today that we need boosters.

"We have data showing very good levels of protection for quite some months after the second dose – over 90 per cent.

“We need to keep looking at the data as the months go by. We would expect to see immunity start to wane over time, but our immune systems are very clever and will remember that we’ve been vaccinated.”

Prof Pollard said "boosters are much more about if protection gets lost over time" and it wasn't clear that this was the case after two jabs.

He added it would be “unacceptable” to give fully-protected Brits unnecessary booster jabs when parts of the world have yet to receive any vaccine.

He said: “With high levels of protection in the UK population and no evidence of that being lost, to give third doses now in the UK while other countries have zero doses is not acceptable.

“We really have to make sure that other countries are protected, for our own good as much as theirs.”

Ministers have hinted toward a booster campiagn as early as September in the most vulnerable.

Matt Hancock, who has this weekend resigned as Health Secretary, said last week people may be given a flu jab and a Covid booster shot at the same time this winter.

He told Times Radio: “We are going to have a very significant flu vaccination drive this autumn – potentially at the same time, you might get your Covid booster jab and your flu jab at the same time, we are testing whether that can be done."

Mr Hancock said he hoped there will not be further lockdowns in winter, adding: “I hope that with the booster shot, we get that protection against Covid very, very high.”

What did the study show?

In the preprint study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, some 90 people received a third dose of the vaccine, which was well-tolerated in terms of side-effects.

The third shot – more than six months after the second – led to a substantial rise in antibodies.

Teresa Lambe, associate professor at the Jenner Institute at Oxford, said "we were able to push them up to a level that we saw at the peak of the response after the second dose".

It also increased the body's T-cell ability to fight coronavirus, including against new variants.

Prof Lambe said: "We were able to demonstration increased neutralising antibodies with a third dose against Alpha, Beta and Delta."

The study also found that the longer the delay between the first and second dose of the vaccine, the stronger the protection against Covid.

A longer delay of up to 45 weeks (ten months) between two AstraZeneca vaccine leads to enhanced immune response.

The experts said this is reassuring for countries with limited vaccine supply that can't give people two doses quickly.

It comes as trials of a new variant vaccine, also developed in Oxford, targeting the South African “Beta” mutation are due to start this week.

The booster vaccine trial will involve around 2,250 participants from Britain, South Africa, Brazil and Poland.

The Beta variant has been worrying scientists because it appears to have the most ability to dodge immunity – more than Delta, first seen in India.

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