Covid booster: Hopes super-booster on trial may see off variants

Sajid Javid confirms NHS will offer booster vaccines

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Helen and Andrew Clarke joined the small pilot of the Gritstone vaccine through “a general desire to be helpful”. The couple, from Bolton, are among 20 volunteers aged over 60 set to join the first phase of the study being run at Manchester Royal Infirmary. They signed up to the National Institute for Health Research’s Covid-19 Vaccine Registry last summer. Helen, 64, who used to be an NHS nurse and has been involved in research in the past, said: “We have been amazed at how quickly a vaccine was made and approved. That couldn’t happen without volunteers.”

Andrew, 63, added: “Somebody has to be the first and we are confident in the science and technology behind this vaccine and also convinced of the need for it.” US drugs giant Gritstone said the jab – also known as GRT-R910 – can boost the immune response against an array of mutated variants in people who previously received a vaccine.

The firm is working alongside the University of Manchester.

Chief investigator Professor Andrew Ustianowski said: “We now know the immune response to first generation vaccines can wane, particularly in older people. Coupled with the prevalence of emerging variants, there is a clear need for continued vigilance to keep Covid-19 at bay.

“We think GRT-R910 as a booster vaccination will elicit strong, durable and broad immune responses.”

Prof Ustianowski said this is key for the more vulnerable, adding that it was “critical in maintaining protection of the vulnerable elderly population who are particularly at risk of hospitalisation and death”.

The Gritstone vaccine works by inducing special immune cells and antibodies. Dr Andrew Allen, the firm’s chief executive, explained: “Our hypothesis is that a different vaccine might complement the primary immune response from pre-existing vaccination with a first generation Covid vaccine in such a way that it would provide more benefit than an additional dose of the same vaccine.”

It could also mean a smaller dose and elminate the need for further boosters. The trial results are expected before March.

Meanwhile, Dame Joan Collins received her booster on day one of the rollout, joking: “Diamonds may be forever, but the vaccine is a life-saver.”

The Dynasty actress, 88, was pictured wearing a straw hat and sparkly gems while doctors gave her the coronavirus and flu vaccines at the same time.

Dame Joan – who probably would have had a Pfizer or Moderna jab – said: “Delighted to have received the flu jab and booster vaccine and had no side effects. I encourage everyone to turn up when called.”

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