The UK has ordered a further 60m doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine in an effort to ensure that booster jabs can be given from this autumn, the government has announced.

The UK has three Covid vaccines approved for use by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency: Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna, all of which require two doses for maximum protection. The MHRA is undertaking a rolling review to assess the Janssen and Novavax vaccines.

Since the UK’s vaccination programme began on 8 December, a total of 33,959,908 people – about 64.5% of all adults – have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, and 13,581,076 people have had two jabs.

The new announcement means the number of Pfizer doses ordered is the same as for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, with the UK expecting to receive 100m doses of each. The UK has bought 17m doses of the Moderna jab.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said greater supplies of the Pfizer vaccine would help to safeguard the UK’s progress in tackling the coronavirus.

“Our vaccination programme is bringing back our freedom, but the biggest risk to that progress is the risk posed by a new variant,” he said. “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. These further 60m doses will be used, alongside others, as part of our booster programme from later this year, so we can protect the progress that we’ve all made.”

The emergence of new coronavirus variants is of concern as some have shown signs of being able to at least partially evade the body’s immune responses, whether triggered by previous infection or certain Covid jabs.

Such concerns have led scientists to call for the development of new formulations of Covid vaccines that are capable of offering better protection against such variants, and such work is already under way.

The Department of Health and Social Care has said the extra supply of Pfizer jabs will be of the same formulation as those currently offered.

That may still be beneficial: current jabs, including the Pfizer vaccine, still appear to offer at least some protection against new variants, although the strength of the immune response depends on the variant involved. A booster shot may be used to help tackle the possibility of waning immunity among the most vulnerable in the population, who received their first Covid jabs months ago.

This content first appear on the guardian

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