AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot has told a national newspaper it may not be necessary for everyone in the UK to have a Covid booster vaccination, and warned rolling out third doses on a mass scale could put extra pressure on the NHS this winter.
Phase three of the Covid vaccination programme is due to start this month, with patients to be given a dual flu and Covid booster jab. Pharmacies across the country are expected to play a central role delivering the service.
Certain groups of people are expected to be prioritised in phase three, including the over-70s, adults aged 16 and over who are clinically extremely vulnerable, those whose immune systems are not working properly, care home residents and frontline health and social care workers.
The health secretary, Sajid Javid, said the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation would make a decision on who gets booster jabs “in the next few days”.
However, AZ's Soriot questioned the wisdom of rolling out booster vaccines to huge numbers of people and said data was needed to back up the rationale for doing so. "We need the weight of the clinical evidence gathered from real world use before we can make an informed decision on a third dose," he told the Daily Telegraph.
Soirot added: “Mobilising the NHS for a boosting programme that is not needed would potentially add unnecessary burden on the NHS over the long winter months."
In July, NHS England said it intended to recruit up to 1,000 community pharmacies to help deliver Covid booster vaccinations.