UK vaccine chief warns boosters for whole populations ‘not sustainable’

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits a vaccination centre. Photo: Getty

Gordon RaynerTelegraph Media Group Limited

Fourth Covid jabs should not be offered until there is more evidence they are effective, the head of Britain’s vaccine body has warned, as he said giving boosters to the whole population every six months was “not sustainable”.

Professor Andrew Pollard, the chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said that in future “we need to target the vulnerable” rather than giving boosters to all over-12s.

The medical expert said there was no point in trying to stop all infections, and that “at some point, society has to open up”.

Prof Pollard’s comments come as England and Wales go back to work after the festive break and schools start to return amid concerns they could be shut by the spread of Omicron. Ministers will meet to finalise plans to keep the economy, hospitals and schools running by fast-tracking tests to up to 10 million “critical” workers through their employers.

Up to 50pc of staff in some front-line services, including care homes and the police, have been forced off work by Covid. The shortages have been exacerbated by staff having problems accessing lateral flow tests or getting PCR results.

Prof Pollard said: “The worst is absolutely behind us. We just need to get through the winter.”

He said he wanted lockdowns to be consigned to history, adding: “At some point, society has to open up. When we do open, there will be a period with a bump in infections, which is why winter is probably not the best time. But that’s a decision for the policy-makers, not the scientists. Our approach has to switch, to rely on the vaccines and the boosters. The greatest risk is still the unvaccinated.”

But Prof Pollard cautioned against blindly following Israel and Germany, which have given the green light to a second set of boosters to all over-60s. “The future must be focusing on the vulnerable and making boosters or treatments available to them to protect them,” he said. Vaccines can rapidly be adapted to fight new variants, but he said: “We can’t vaccinate the planet every four to six months. It’s not sustainable or affordable.”