KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 30 — The United Kingdom government’s vaccine advisers have recommended mRNA vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna — as boosters, regardless of the type of vaccine taken for primary Covid-19 inoculation.
Prof Lim Wei Shen, chair of Covid-19 immunisation for the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), also said coronavirus booster doses will be offered to all adults aged 18 and above — an expansion of the previous booster programme for over-40s — three months after their second dose.
“Regardless of the type of vaccine that was given for the primary course, the first two doses, either of the mRNA vaccines — that is the Moderna vaccine or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — can and should be used in preference as the booster vaccine,” Lim said during a press conference yesterday.
“The Moderna vaccine at 50 micrograms, which is half the dose used in the primary course, and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at 30 micrograms, standard adult dose — both give extremely good antibody levels. They generate a very strong immune response given as a boost.”
He said people who received two doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford coronavirus vaccine and who are unable to take an mRNA shot are advised to receive an AstraZeneca booster.
“The AstraZeneca vaccine does give a good boost, albeit not as good as the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, but it’s still a good boost, and we would advise that they have a boost, rather than have no booster dose at all.”
The UK has primarily rolled out the AstraZeneca vaccine, besides approving the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson shots.
The JCVI also recommended Covid-19 booster doses, or fourth jabs, for severely immunocompromised individuals. The first three vaccine doses received by this group count as their primary vaccination.
“Once again, the booster dose should be given no sooner than three months after their last vaccine dose or the third dose,” said Lim.
He also said the UK has yet to see any data to suggest that the new Omicron variant of concern is different from previous variants in terms of who is at higher risk of severe Covid-19 disease — older adults and people with underlying health conditions.
“I strongly urge everyone who is already eligible to please make the effort, book your appointments, and have your booster. That will be the best way to protect yourselves, your loved ones, and the wider society against any possible new variant wave of infection.”
Omicron — which has an “extremely high” 32 mutations on its spike protein, compared to eight mutations with the Delta variant — has been reported in multiple countries around the world after it was first detected in southern Africa, including the UK, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Israel, and several European countries.
DW reported Dr Ulrich Elling, a molecular biologist at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna, as saying that early estimates indicated that Omicron “might be 500 per cent more infectious than Delta”. It is not yet known if infections with Omicron lead to more severe Covid-19 disease than previous variants.
Six Omicron cases were reported in Scotland yesterday, some of which did not have known travel history, suggesting “some community transmission”, according to Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. A total of 11 cases of the new variant have been detected in the UK to date, including five in England.
Two Omicron cases were also reported in travellers who flew from South Africa to Sydney, Australia, via a Singapore transit. The Business Times reported Singapore’s Ministry of Health as saying that of the seven who disembarked from the plane in Singapore, six are on a 10-day stay-home notice at a dedicated facility. One was a close contact of an infected person on the flight and has been quarantined.