Will the government act quickly enough to protect the most vulnerable from the third wave of COVID-19?

The populations most at risk of severe COVID-19, older and vaccinated early, may need to receive a booster jab earlier than expected because their protection is waning significantly against vaccine-resistant Delta variant.

Just six months ago, Margaret Keenan, 91, became the first person in Britain to receive a first dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine in real-world communities. The NHS vaccine rollout has been a success ever since, with 42.26% of the total UK population having received two doses of a vaccine against the virus – 28,227,362 people fully vaccinated.

Millions of the most vulnerable populations in the UK, who were the first people to get the jab, are now reaching the three-month post-second dose mark. Back on 31 December 2020, a statement by the four Chief Medical Officers of the UK nations announced a change in the interval between the first and second dose of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines from 3-4 weeks to up to 12 weeks.

New research from the Francis Crick Institute, published in The Lancet on 3 June, shows that protection from a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine is significantly lower against the Delta variant B16172 compared to the Alpha variant B117.

The researchers explain that in the longer term, both increased age – populations at highest risk of severe COVID-19, older and first-vaccinated – and time since the second dose of Pfizer significantly correspond to a decreased protection against the Delta and Beta variants.

They conclude by saying that further booster jabs will be needed for these most vulnerable populations – with modified vaccines that would induce stronger protection than the current vaccines – to maintain the highest levels of immunisation in regions where the Delta variant and other vaccine-resistant variants may become prevalent.

If it is confirmed that protection from two doses of the Pfizer vaccine (and to some extent the AstraZeneca vaccine) wanes significantly against the Delta variant and other similar vaccine-resistant variants after just a few months, especially in older people, we ought to be prepared for a tragic third wave in the summer that could cost the lives of many of the most vulnerable and early vaccinated in our country.

Our most vulnerable may need to receive a booster jab earlier than expected because their protection is waning significantly against vaccine-resistant Delta variant.

Will Boris Johnson and his government act quickly enough to protect us this time? The saddest thing is that we even have to ask the question. ■

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“The government you elect is the government you deserve.” — Thomas Jefferson.

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Photo cover: Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks with Janet Pummel in the Collingwood Cancer centre during a visit to Colchester Hospital. / Flickr-Number 10 - Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.