Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines ‘are safe to use as booster shots’
The UK’s medicines watchdog has said the Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines are safe to use as booster jabs.
The move by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) means a booster programme could be brought in imminently if the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) gives the go-ahead.
Members of the JCVI are meeting on Thursday, with a decision on who should get a third booster shot expected in the coming days.
It has already said a third dose should be offered to people with severely weakened immune systems.
It will now be for the JCVI to advise on whether booster jabs will be given and if so, which vaccines should be used
The JCVI is looking at the latest data from the Cov-Boost trial run by the University Hospital Southampton.
The £19.3 million UK clinical trial is testing the Pfizer jab alongside those from AstraZeneca, Moderna, Novavax, Janssen from Johnson & Johnson, Valneva and CureVac.
The study is answering key questions such as whether people who have had two doses of AstraZeneca may get more benefit if they have a third dose of Pfizer.
The new MHRA guidance says Pfizer boosters can be given to anyone, regardless of which doses they had previously.
However, AstraZeneca boosters will only be given to those who previously had the AstraZeneca jab.
Dr June Raine, MHRA chief executive, said: “We are committed to getting safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines to the UK public.
“This means ensuring that existing Covid-19 vaccines can continue to be used in the most effective way possible.
“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.
“This is an important regulatory change as it gives further options for the vaccination programme, which has saved thousands of lives so far.
“It will now be for the JCVI to advise on whether booster jabs will be given and if so, which vaccines should be used.
“We have in place a comprehensive safety surveillance strategy for monitoring the safety of all UK-approved Covid-19 vaccines and this surveillance will include booster jabs.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “We continue to prepare for an autumn booster programme to ensure those most vulnerable to Covid-19 have protection extended ahead of winter and against new variants.
“Any booster programme, including which vaccines might be recommended for use, will be based the final advice of the independent JCVI.”
In June, the JCVI published interim guidance – which could be changed – on who should get booster jabs and in which order of priority.
It said that in stage one, people should be offered a third booster dose alongside the flu jab, starting with adults who are immunosuppressed, those living in elderly care homes, the over-70s and those considered clinically extremely vulnerable.
Also in this first stage, frontline health and social care workers should be offered a booster.
Stage two of the programme should be rolled out after stage one and include everyone over 50, over-16s who are in a Covid at-risk group or who already qualify for the annual flu jab, such as those with asthma, and the adult household contacts of immunosuppressed people.
At the time, the JCVI said there was evidence that vaccines used in the UK will provide good protection against severe disease for at least six months for the majority, and there is some evidence that longer lasting protection may be happen.