Norfolk virus expert not convinced over wider third Covid-19 jab roll-out

Nurse with Covid jab

UEA virus expert Prof Paul Hunter is not convinced that the wider population should get third Covid-19 jabs. - Credit: PA

A Norfolk expert in infectious diseases says he is yet to be convinced of the merits of widening the group to be offered a third coronavirus vaccine jab to the general population.

More than half a million people with severely weakened immune systems will be offered another Covid-19 vaccine dose, following a recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

That is separate to a decision on a wider booster programme, with the JCVI still deliberating on the potential benefits for the rest of the population.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt. - Credit: PA

With former health secretary Jeremy Hunt among those calling for a wider group to get a booster jab, Prof Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia's medical school is not convinced that is the right approach.

He said there was "no debate" giving a third vaccination to the most clinically vulnerable made complete sense, but that the current two vaccinations already give a good level of protection against most people becoming severely ill.

He said: "We have known since March that vaccines are not that good at stopping infections.

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"But we know that they do stop people getting severely ill, they stop people going into hospital and they stop people from dying.

"And evidence from Israel and from the United States is that the vaccine does prevent severe ill health and is just as good in doing that against the Delta variant.

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"So, if they are still just as good at preventing severe disease, why do you need a booster round?"

Prof Paul Hunter, from the UEA, has encouraged people to donate to the WHO's Covid-19 Response Fund

Prof Paul Hunter. - Credit: UEA

He said there could be merit in extending third jabs to very obese people,  people with severe diabetes and over 80s.

But he said: "I am in my 60s, maybe a little overweight and if I was offered the vaccine I would take it. But if I was responsible for deciding should people like me be given a third jab, I'd probably say no.

"There's the whole ethics of giving them to people for whom it would have minimal benefits when there are people around the world who cannot access vaccinations."

On whether all children aged 12 to 15 should be vaccinated, Prof Hunter said he would currently "lean against that", but that if the JCVI, which has access to a wide range of data, were to recommend that he would be "comfortable" with it.

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