U.K. Launches Covid Booster Study to Test Third Vaccine Doses

The U.K. is moving to assess how best to retain Covid-19 immunity over time after fully vaccinating almost a third of its population.

Britain’s government is launching a trial of seven vaccines to see which can generate a successful immune response as a booster dose in those who have received two shots. This will help officials decide the most effective method for controlling the virus months after the country’s planned reopening on June 21.

“We will do everything we can to future-proof this country from pandemics and other threats to our health security,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in a statement. Data from the trial will help shape plans for Britain’s booster program starting later this year.

Volunteers may receive a different brand of vaccine for their booster than the one they were originally vaccinated with. Those who received two doses developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, for instance, might receive a third from AstraZeneca Plc or Valneva SE. The other four vaccines being studied are from Moderna Inc., Novavax Inc., Johnson & Johnson and CureVac NV.

Participants will be given a booster at least 10 to 12 weeks after their second shot, and then be monitored for months after the trial to evaluate their immune response and any side effects. They might also be given a control shot or half-doses to assess how much is needed to maintain an immune response.

“We’re not expecting any of the vaccines to be detrimental,” said Saul Faust, a professor at the University of Southampton, who is leading the trial. “But some may have more problems with side effects than others.”

The trial will include just under 3,000 participants ages 30 and over, who will start receiving boosters in early June. People in the U.K. who’ve had two vaccine doses can sign up for the trial starting Wednesday evening. It’s being funded by the U.K. Vaccine Taskforce via the National Institute for Health Research.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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