The UK Government has requested extra doses of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine developed for use against the South Africa variant, it has announced.
It comes as the single-dose Covid vaccine by manufacturer Janssen was last week authorised for use in the UK, with doses expected to be available ‘from later this year’.
The Government reduced its original Janssen order from 30 million doses to 20 million due to the ‘unprecedented scale and pace’ of the UK vaccine rollout.
However, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) today said that ‘extra’ doses of the AZ vaccine – in addition to the 100 million already secured – are ‘under discussion’.
These will be ‘tailored’ to target the South Africa virus variant and the UK has committed to funding clinical trials for the new ‘adapted vaccine’, it added.
The health secretary has today mark six months from the start of the Covid vaccination programme, announcing that three-quarters of UK adults have now received their first dose.
Speaking in Oxford this afternoon ahead of the G7 Health Ministers’ Meetings to be hosted there this week, he said that the NHS has ‘performed with distinction’ throughout the pandemic.
According to the latest Government data, 39,477,158 people across the UK have now had their first dose of the Covid jab and 25,734,719 have had a second. This represents 75% and 49% of UK adults respectively.
In March, researchers said the focus of vaccine developers should be on the South African strain as they consider potential modifications, after previous research showed lower protection from the variant with the AZ vaccine.
Clinical trials are also underway to test seven different existing vaccines for a third ‘booster’ Covid shot and are due to report by September.
Meanwhile, the Government has said that it could send additional doses of the Covid vaccine to areas where variants of concerns are spreading, including to bring forward second doses.