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A U.K. panel recommended giving Covid-19 booster shots to people aged 50 and over and other vulnerable groups as the government aims to bolster the immunity of its population and avert a potential surge in cases this winter.

An extra dose of the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE vaccine is the preferred option and should be administered no earlier than six months after the second shot, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said on Tuesday. It recommended that the rollout begin this month.  Alternatively, a half dose of the Moderna Inc. shot will be offered. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to confirm later on Tuesday that the booster roll out will begin in the autumn. The shots should be given to people more at risk from serious disease, including those living in residential care homes, frontline health workers, and younger people with underlying health conditions, the committee said.   

The move follows months of debate over the need for third shots. Some countries are moving ahead with them amid an increased threat from the delta variant and studies suggesting waning antibody levels in vaccinated individuals. Yet World Health Organization officials have urged governments to wait at least until the end of the year so that poorer countries get better access to vaccines, adding that the scientific evidence on boosters is insufficient.

A review published this week by a panel of scientists from around the world concluded that governments should focus on immunizing the unvaccinated and wait for more data on which boosters would be most effective and at what doses. Vaccination has shown an average of 95% effectiveness against severe disease, including against variants such as delta, and more than 80% effectiveness at preventing any infection, according to the report in the medical journal The Lancet.

 

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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