U.K. Buys Extra 60 Million Pfizer Doses for Booster Program

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The U.K. government has secured an extra 60 million doses of the vaccine produced by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE to form part of a booster program to protect the most vulnerable people against Covid-19 before winter.

Scientists advising the government are deciding which groups of people should get the booster shot later this year, after they have been given their first two doses.

The aim is to ensure that the most at-risk adults in the U.K. are fully protected against a potential surge in the virus as the weather turns colder. A rise in cases makes it more likely for the virus to mutate and form a new variant that could be partially resistant to vaccines.

“Our vaccination program is bringing back our freedom, but the biggest risk to that progress is the risk posed by a new variant,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in an emailed statement. “We’re working on our plans for booster shots, which are the best way to keep us safe and free while we get this disease under control across the whole world.”

Booster Shots

The additional Pfizer shots will be used alongside other approved Covid-19 vaccines for the booster program, which will begin in the fall. It takes the total number of Pfizer-BioNTech doses secured by the U.K. to 100 million.

The government has also bought 100 million doses of AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine and 17 million doses of Moderna Inc.’s, which are being rolled out across the country.

In other developments:

  • The U.K. is at or close to its lowest level of coronavirus incidence since the pandemic began and the continued rollout of the vaccine is critical to avoiding another deadly wave of the disease, England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said at a press conference
  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he will receive his first dose of a coronavirus vaccine on Thursday
  • The threat of new variants of the disease isn’t a concern in the short-term, Van-Tam said, though Hancock warned it still posed a longer-term risk
  • Van-Tam said he was expecting a third wave of infections next winter but hoped it would be a manageable upsurge in cases rather than a devastating repeat of previous peaks.

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech SE have committed to making as many as 2.5 billion doses of their two-shot vaccine this year, revising their targets upward repeatedly as they scale up production. Their talks with wealthy governments are increasingly turning toward booster shots, with the European Commission also planning to order as many as 1.8 billion additional doses through 2023.

The first booster shot will probably be needed six to nine months after vaccination, BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said in a briefing with Germany’s foreign press association earlier Wednesday. After that, additional boosters could come every year to 18 months, Sahin said.

Britain has orders in for five other vaccines which are yet to be approved by the U.K. regulator -- bringing the total number of doses potentially available to 517 million. The Department of Health and Social Care said it would publish more details on the booster program “in due course.”

More than a quarter of adults have so far been fully vaccinated against coronavirus in the U.K.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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