'Mix and match' plan for third vaccine likely to be offered to Britons

Revealed: ‘Mix and match’ plan for third vaccine likely to be offered to Britons in the autumn as experts call for different brand of booster jab to maximise protection against new Covid variants

  • Memo says it is ‘likely’ people will be recommended to receive a different brand
  • Is understood trials under way to ensure mixing has no significant side effects
  • Third phase of world-beating vaccination programme will roll out in the autumn
  • It comes as number of Covid cases exceed 5,000 for the third consecutive day  

Britons having a booster jab against Covid this autumn are likely to be offered a different brand from their original vaccine, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

According to guidance being circulated among senior health officials – and seen by this newspaper – a ‘mix-and-match’ approach will be recommended to maximise protection against new variants while also offering greater flexibility over access to supplies.

The leaked memo says ‘it is likely people will be recommended to receive a different brand of vaccine to the brand they received previously during this inaugural programme’. 

It is understood, however, that trials are still under way to ensure the ‘cocktail effect’ of mixing brands has no significant side effects.

According to guidance being circulated among senior health officials, a ‘mix-and-match’ approach will be recommended to maximise protection against new variants while also offering greater flexibility over access to supplies (pictured: people queuing for jab on June 5)

The third phase of the world-beating vaccination programme will roll out in the autumn after all over-18s have been offered two doses of the jab. The memo also says:

  • Booster jabs will follow the same pattern as the original programme, with priority given to the over-50s in descending age order, along with NHS staff, carers and those with medical conditions;
  • It will ‘also include vaccinations for all 16 and 17-year-olds, and potentially 12 to 15-year-olds too’. It was announced on Friday that the Pfizer vaccine had been approved for use in children aged 12 to 15 by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) will now advise on whether children in that age group should receive the jab;
  • The jabs will be given at the same time as the annual flu vaccination, with medics also encouraged to offer health and lifestyle advice such as losing weight and giving up smoking; 
  • Two further vaccines – Valneva and Novavax – are expected to have been approved by regulators before the booster programme begins, adding to the Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson jabs already in use. 

Research has shown that mixing the brands used in first and second doses is more likely to cause short-term side effects such as chills, headaches and muscle pain than injecting the same drug.

The latest figures showed 174,535 first doses and 360,691 second doses were administered in the previous 24 hours, taking the total numbers to 40.1 million and 27.2 million respectively (file photo)

One in ten volunteers who were given two AstraZeneca jabs four weeks apart reported feverishness, but the proportion rose to about 34 per cent when they received one AstraZeneca jab and one Pfizer. Half of those given two AstraZeneca shots experienced fatigue, but it rose to almost 80 per cent for those who had AstraZeneca followed by Pfizer.

The proposed extension of vaccines to children as young as 12 may prove controversial, with Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the JCVI, accepting there were ‘ethical dilemmas’ to be considered. 

Last night, the Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘We are preparing for a booster programme to take place later this year. Final decisions on that programme haven’t been made.’

Details of the autumn vaccination plans came as the number of cases of Covid-19 exceeded 5,000 for the third consecutive day and 13 more deaths were reported – up from seven last Saturday but down from 27 on May 5.

Chris Hopson, the head of NHS Providers, said the number of patients in hospital with the so-called Indian variant was rising but not ‘very significantly’, and that vaccines appeared to have ‘broken the chain’ between infection and serious illness. 

In a bid to protect ‘Freedom Day’ on June 21, the Government is trying to get as many vaccine shots in arms as possible (pictured: a woman receiving her Covid vaccine card in March)

The latest figures showed 174,535 first doses and 360,691 second doses were administered in the previous 24 hours, taking the total numbers to 40.1 million and 27.2 million respectively. 

In Harrow, North-West London, people as young as 18 queued for up to six hours to receive vaccines at a health centre that had dropped age limits.

In a bid to protect ‘Freedom Day’ on June 21, the Government is trying to get as many vaccine shots in arms as possible. It was reported yesterday that Ministers are considering plans to cut wait times between jabs for the over-40s from 12 weeks to eight. Another report said over-25s will start receiving invitations this week.

Meanwhile, it emerged that Boris Johnson will use this week’s G7 summit to secure a pledge to vaccinate the world’s population against Covid by the end of next year.

In Portugal, thousands of Britons were rushing to get Covid tests so they could return to the UK before Tuesday’s quarantine deadline – but were warned of delays of up to a fortnight. Faro Airport said it expected 20,000 Britons to depart this weekend, with some travellers forced to pay high prices to get back in time to avoid having to self-isolate.

And many of those waiting to fly out to Portugal – which was controversially moved from green to amber status last week – were either changing their plans or found their flights had been cancelled.

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