The UK may need to revaccinate people for immunisation to coronavirus every six months, while Covid-19 testing will still be required in 2022, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said during a select committee hearing on Thursday.
“I anticipate that we will probably need to revaccinate because we don’t know the longevity of the protection from these vaccines,” Hancock said in response to an MP’s question. “It might need to be every six months, it might need to be every year.”
Hancock added that “yes” he did think that England’s current national lockdown would be the country’s last, but said: “There’s absolutely no doubt that vaccines and testing will still be a feature next year.”
England entered its third lockdown of the pandemic on Tuesday in response to surging Covid-19 infection rates across the UK over recent weeks, which health chiefs have said was largely due to a new, more easily transmissible variant of the virus.
Earlier, the CEO of biotech company and Covid vaccine maker Moderna said the firm believed its inoculation could protect against illness for “potentially a couple of years”, though further redevelopment would be needed if the virus mutates beyond current coverage.
On Thursday, the first people in the UK were given the Oxford University/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, the second jab authorised for use in the country.
The UK reported 52,618 new Covid-19 infections on Thursday, as well as a further 1,162 fatalities within 28 days of a positive test, taking the total death toll to 78,508, according to official data.