The UK medicine regulator approved both Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines as a third COVID dose – for use in a new UK booster scheme
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) today (9 September) said that Pfizer and AstraZeneca would both be good vaccine candidates for the UK booster scheme, which is expected to happen before Winter, 2021.
Who would get the third COVID dose?
Currently, the recipients of the booster jabs are undecided. The US approved boosters for immunocompromised people, which is the expected strategy for the UK.
In a study, Washington University School of Medicine researchers found that 90% of immunosuppressed people created antibodies in response to COVID vaccination. However, they had a less strong response than people with fully-functioning immune systems, at about a third of the expected response – leaving them more in need of a booster.
Dr June Raine, the MHRA’s chief executive, said: “We know that a person’s immunity may decline over time after their first vaccine course. I am pleased to confirm that the COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer and AstraZeneca can be used as safe and effective booster doses.”
WHO asks countries to wait
However, an EU medical agency released information arguing against the urgency for a third COVID dose in Global North countries at this moment – excluding people who are immunocompromised. The report says that: “there is no urgent need for the administration of booster doses of vaccines to fully vaccinated individuals in the general population.”
There are ethical concerns about using more of the available Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccine supply as a third COVID dose, when some countries are struggling to reach even 10% single-vaccinated.
On Wednesday (4 August), WHO leader Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus asked richer countries in the Global North to hold off on administering their third COVID doses, also known as booster jabs.
Speaking at a press conference, he said: “We need an urgent reversal from the majority of vaccines going to high-income countries, to the majority going to low income countries.”