We cannot keep vaccinating the world every six months, a leading UK vaccine scientist has said. Prof Sir Andrew Pollard, chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), told The Telegraph that there is no point in trying to stop all infections, and that “at some point, society has to open up”.
The paediatrics professor added that he believes the most at risk should be identified and prioritised for a vaccine instead of giving boosters to all over-12s.
Prof Pollard (56) helped to develop the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, and he has now made the hopeful prediction that the worst of the pandemic is behind us.
One year on from the rollout of COVID vaccines, nine billion Covid doses, including AstraZeneca, have been administered worldwide. Thirty-three million boosters have been administered.
In the interview with The Telegraph released this week, Prof Pollard said “we need to target the vulnerable” in future, rather than giving boosters to all over-12s.
“The worst is absolutely behind us,” he told The Telegraph, adding: “We just need to get through the winter.”
The head of Britain’s vaccine body also said that fourth Covid jabs should not be offered until there is more evidence – as he warned that giving boosters to people every six months was “not sustainable”.
He said that Britain’s vaccine programme was working well, while referring to “misinformation” about the risks of the AstraZeneca vaccine – which he claimed was propagated by prominent European leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron, and former leader of Germany, Angela Merkel – was dangerous and could have had an impact on people in Africa.
Prof Pollard believes the plan B restrictions imposed by Boris Johnson were a necessary response to the Omicron variant, in order to limit cases and help the health service stay functioning. However, Prof Pollard said he agrees with the prevailing opinion that Omicron causes less severe disease than the delta variant, and told the paper that he does not think the UK will have to go into lockdown again, saying he believes society must open up as normal at some point despite Covid.
“At some point, society has to open up,” he said, adding: “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.”
Despite encouraging vaccine uptake, Prof Pollard admitted that he is “not a huge fan” of compulsory vaccination. He argues that rather than enforcing vaccine mandates, clearer information is the best policy going forward. The vaccine chief said he doesn’t feel vaccine mandates are appropriate for the UK, given that over 90 per cent of its population have received a first dose and that public opinion is largely ‘in favour’ of vaccination.
He did however add that vaccine mandates “would make more sense” in Eastern European countries, “where only a quarter of the population is vaccinated”.
It comes as Bosnia and Herzegovina became the first European country not to enforce a Covid passport system. Bosnia and Herzegovina have only fully vaccinated just over 24% of its 3.3 million people.
Controversial COVID passports were shot down after the President of the Bosnian Party (BOSS) and lawyer Mirnes Ajanović challenged the Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in a constitutional and legal battle. Lawyers in the Eastern European nation which borders Croatia said that vaccine passports were ‘disproportionate’ and ‘segregational’.
Mr Ajanović argued that the proposed introduction of COVID passports in the European state would represent a form of discrimination against citizens and a violation of basic rights and freedoms, such as the right to freedom of movement, opinion, labour, assembly and expression, which he said must not be tolerated.