Covid with vaccines will be ‘impossible’ if everyone in the world needs four doses a year, a leading expert warned today.
Jeremy Farrar, a former SAGE member and head of the Wellcome Trust, pointed out that while another booster is already being mooted in the UK, many around the globe have yet to receive a first jab.
He called for investment ‘at scale’ in new vaccines that could offer so-called ‘sterilising immunity’ – completely crushing all infection and blocking transmission.
The gloomy comments came amid claims a fourth jab could be offered to millions of Britons soon after a new study showed protection against Omicron wanes within three months of a booster.
A UK Health Security Agency analysis gave grounds for optimism yesterday by suggesting people with the fast-spreading Omicron variant are 70 per cent less likely to end up in hospital.
But the research also revealed that immunity from boosters fades more quickly against the new strain compared to Delta.
Those who received two AstraZeneca doses, plus a Pfizer or Moderna booster, have 60 per cent protection against Omicron for two to weeks after the third jab.
But after ten weeks, it drops to 35 per cent for Pfizer and 45 per cent for Moderna.
Officials are considering speeding up the rollout of the fourth jab to ward off a future surge in cases among those who have already received boosters.
But responding to the signs, Sir Jeremy tweeted that the need for such frequent boosters would rule out global vaccination.
‘Not possible vaccinate world with such regular booster doses, talk of 4x dose in little over year. Many not had 1x dose yet. Need invest now at scale on 2nd/3rd generation vaccines to try & get sterilising immunity & broad long lasting cross protection,’ he said.
However, the eminent scientist admitted that achieving sterilising immunity was a ‘moonshot’ and he was not sure it could be done.
The Government report from the UKHSA revealed yesterday that Omicron is up to 70 per cent less likely to cause hospital admission than Delta – though SAGE warned it may need to be 90 per cent milder to avoid the NHS coming under unsustainable pressure.
It also found that the new strain is 31 to 45 per cent less likely to result in A&E attendance.
The UK Health Security Agency says its early findings are ‘encouraging’ but the variant could still lead to large numbers of people in hospital.
The analysis is based on all cases of Omicron and Delta in the UK since the start of November, including 132 people admitted to hospital with the variant. There have also been 14 deaths in people within 28 days of catching Omicron.
It comes as NHS England announced third jabs will be given out on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, with around 200,000 appointments for a third dose still available across the country over the festive period, in a bid to slow down the infection rate.