Coronavirus and flu vaccines could be COMBINED this winter


Dr Matthew Duchars, head of the VMIC, said ‘it will save a lot of time and it would be a lot more convenient to just give one shot’ for Covid and flu jabs

Covid and flu vaccines could eventually be mixed into one injection to save time and make future booster programmes more convenient, it was claimed today.

Dr Matthew Duchars, chief executive officer of the Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC), claimed the facility is looking into whether a single jab.

Minister have not yet confirmed booster jabs will be given this autumn, with No10 waiting on advice from its expert panel before pressing ahead with plans. 

But Health Secretary Sajid Javid said last week that the UK ‘will be able to start the booster programme’ from next month, if the Government is given the green light. 

Up to 32million over-50s could be invited for top-up jabs, which may be dished out at the same time as the annual flu vaccine. 

Whitehall sources said the plan this autumn is to administer Covid and flu jabs at the same time in different arms. 

The vaccine-making centre had received around £215million in Government funding by March and is expected to produce 70million doses in as little as four months once up and running

The vaccine-making centre had received around £215million in Government funding by March and is expected to produce 70million doses in as little as four months once up and running

What’s the plan for Covid boosters?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which advises the Government on the vaccine roll out, set out interim advice in June for Covid boosters.

It said any potential third dose programme should be offered in two stages from September, starting with those most at risk.

This would include people in care homes, over-70s, frontline health workers and vulnerable adults.

In a second stage, the boosters should be given to over-50s, over-16s who are at risk from the flu or Covid and those living with immunosuppressed individuals.

The scientists said their final advice ‘may change substantially’ and will depend on emerging data, including on how long immunity lasts from two jabs. 

The groups identified by the JCVI are strongly advised to get a flu jab and Government sources have said the plan is to administer both injections at the same time in different arms.

Sources revealed the injections will be dished out as up to 2,000 pharmacies, with the goal of administering 2.5million doses per week. 

But Dr Duchars told the Telegraph that the VMIC was looking at combining the two for future roll-outs.

He said: ‘It will save a lot of time and it would be a lot more convenient to just give one shot, so it is something that we and vaccine developers and producers will be looking at.

‘Let’s say we do need to give a seasonal vaccine, and people need one shot for flu, and one shot for Covid and another for something else.

‘If you can put them all into one, then that’s obviously preferable.’

The Oxford-based VMIC was announced in 2018 as the UK’s first ever vaccine-making hub and was due to open in 2022.

The Government said at the time it would invest £66million in the centre, but it had been granted £215million in funding by March and was fast-tracked to help in the fight against Covid.

It was founded by the University of Oxford, Imperial College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. 

Once up and running, the VMCI will churn out 70million doses in as little as four months — nearly 600,000 doses a day.

Discussing the centre’s capacity, Dr Duchars said: ‘Our target is reasonable. I feel confident we can do that. 

‘Can we do it faster? Possibly. Hopefully. We’ll absolutely be working on trying to do that.’

But the Government does not need to use the centre until 2022 because it has already secured enough vaccines for the rest of the year.

No10 has already bought 60million doses of Pfizer’s jab to use this autumn. 

And Whitehall insiders say that ministers have already secured a deal for an extra 35million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine for next winter. 

Dr Duchars added: ‘In our discussions, their plan is to use VMIC for the revaccination campaign in 2022. That’s what we’ve refocused our efforts and attention on.’

It comes as Mr Javid said last week that when the Government receives the JCVI’s advice ‘we will be able to start the booster programme’, signalling that the Government expects the plans to be approved.

The NHS has been preparing for the roll-out, which the Health Secretary said is expected to begin in early September.

The JCVI said in June that any potential booster programme should be offered in two stages from September, starting with those most at risk. 

This would include people in care homes, over-70s, frontline health workers and vulnerable adults.

But Government sources said earlier this month that the doses will be offered to over-50s, immunosuppressed people and NHS and care home staff from September 6 — equating to 32million Brits.

The source revealed the injections will be dished out as up to 2,000 pharmacies, with the goal of administering 2.5million doses per week. 

It comes as a Government source revealed to the Mail on Sunday that Brits eligible for boosters may not be considered fully-jabbed it they do not come forward for a third dose.

The source told the newspaper: ‘The assumption is that you will be required to have the most up-to-date health passport.

‘So if the advice is to have a booster six months after your second jab, then that is what you’ll need.’



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