Government Orders Extra 60 Million Doses Of Pfizer Vaccine For Covid Booster Shots This Autumn
Matt Hancock revealed a further 60 million doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine have been purchased by the UK (Alamy)
Matt Hancock announced the government has purchased an extra 60 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine as part of preparations for a coronavirus “booster programme” in the Autumn.
The health secretary said the move was “so we can protect the progress that we’ve all made” in tackling the pandemic, and the extra jabs will be provided based on clinical need.
The extra doses, which bring the UK’s total number of secured vaccines to 517 million, will be used alongside other approved versions, with more details due to be revealed by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation after a series of clinical trials.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, Hancock said: “Our vaccination programme is bringing back our freedom, but the biggest risk to that progress is the risk posed by a new variant.
“We're working on our plans for booster shots, which are the best way to keep us safe and free while we get this disease under control across the whole world.”
The minister began the briefing by discussing the "harrowing" coronavirus situation in India, which has recorded record numbers of new cases and deaths in recent days.
"I think it pains each one of us who is seeing those scenes, not least because the bonds between our countries are so strong – they are ties of family and of friendship,” he said.
"I've been in constant contact with my Indian counterpart and we've worked across the weekend to put together our first package of support of ventilators and oxygen concentrators.”
Hancock added: "More supplies will be arriving later this week.
"I've also been working with Health Minister for Northern Ireland Robin Swann to donate large-scale oxygen production equipment from Northern Ireland, capable of producing over 1,000 litres of oxygen per minute, which is one of the main needs of the people of India."
He said the situation in India emphasised the pandemic was not yet over. "It shows how important it is that we are vigilant here at home," he said.
Hancock described tackling the pandemic as "a global fight", adding: "Everyone across this whole United Kingdom stands side-by-side with the people of India in these troubled times, because in this battle against coronavirus we are all on the same side."
Switching to the situation in the UK, he said the government had the "first concrete evidence" of how vaccines reduce transmission of Covid-19 within households.
Data looking at people who had been given one dose found they were up to 50% less likely to pass on the disease to someone in their household, Hancock said.
"We're looking at whether the second dose gives an even bigger effect," he added.
"We know that indoor settings have the highest risk of transmission so these results are really encouraging in terms of the impact of the vaccine on reducing transmission.
"What it means is the evidence is stacking up that the vaccine protects you, your loved ones and it is the way out of this pandemic."
The health secretary also said seven in 10 adults now have protective Covid-19 antibodies, a "measure of the protection that we have collectively built up right across the country".