NHS to move ahead with Pfizer/BioNTech bivalent COVID-19 vaccine roll-out

The NHS will go ahead with the roll-out of Pfizer/BioNTech’s 30mg bivalent booster this week, following a recent decision made by then UK health secretary Steve Barclay to accept the guidance of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) approved the new vaccine on 3 September, allowing it to be used for those aged 12 years and above.

The autumn booster programme will launch today, 7 September, making the vaccines available to millions of people, including the immunosuppressed, those aged 75 and over and healthcare workers. In addition to these groups, under new Green Book guidance, those aged five and above on the learning disabilities register will also be able to access the booster.

For those who are eligible, there must have been a three-month gap since a previous booster jab. People will be invited to book online or call 119.

NHS chief executive, Amanda Pritchard said that the NHS autumn booster programme aims to “protect the nation ahead of winter, starting with those most vulnerable to serious illness and hospitalisation from COVID-19 and flu”.

The Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use – a branch of the European Medicine Agency – recently recommended the authorisation of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 bivalent vaccines, respectively.

Albert Bourla, chairman and chief executive officer at Pfizer, commented the “BA.1-adapted bivalent vaccine was clinically shown to have a favourable safety profile with immunogenicity against both wild type and Omicron strains”.

The Pfizer/BioNTech bivalent Original/Omicron vaccine uses mRNA to target the original virus strain spike protein and the Omicron BA.1 spike protein.

Data taken from a clinical trial found side effects to be mild and similar to those of the original booster dose, with no new serious safety concerns reported.

A study published in Lancet Infectious Diseases stated that, during the first year of vaccinations, COVID-19 vaccines resulted in ‘a global reduction of 63% in total deaths (19.8 million of 31.4 million)’.