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British vaccine science chief says: earlier booster campaign wouldn't have been right

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By Reuters
British vaccine science chief says: earlier booster campaign wouldn't have been right
British vaccine science chief says: earlier booster campaign wouldn't have been right   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021

LONDON – The chair of Britain’s vaccine group said on Tuesday that calling an earlier and faster COVID-19 vaccine booster campaign would not necessarily have been the right policy given the scientific evidence at the time.

Britain is racing to offer all adults a booster by the end of the year as the country faces what Prime Minister Boris Johnson has termed a “tidal wave” of Omicron variant infections.

Asked if in retrospect it would have been better to have an earlier booster campaign to protect against a new variant, Professor Lim Wei Shen, chair for COVID-19 immunisation on the government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said: “The simple answer is no.

“The decision in September to offer vaccination to people over 50 for example was based on the Delta variant, which was circulating and the waning of protection against severe disease.”

He said the committee had decided to accelerate the booster campaign on Nov. 29, three days after WHO declared Omicron a variant of concern.

“We could have potentially called it earlier – two days earlier – but I don’t think we could call it before it was identified,” he said.

Lim also told the committee of lawmakers that the country could have moved earlier to vaccinate children aged between 12 and 15 if it had had the benefit of extra data on safety.

He said shots could be offered to children as young as five.

“We are discussing that at the moment,” he said. “We’re also waiting for the vaccines to be approved by MHRA.”

Lim said the decision could be made before Christmas.