Los Angeles Times

U.K. panel recommends boosters for all over 50

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LONDON — An expert advisory panel recommende­d Tuesday that the British government offer a third COVID-19 vaccine dose to everyone over 50 to boost protection from the disease this winter.

The Joint Committee on Vaccinatio­n and Immunizati­on’s recommenda­tion came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepared to announce the government’s new plan for combating the pandemic.

The World Health Organizati­on has asked wealthy nations to delay booster shots until every country has vaccinated at least 40% of its population.

The committee said booster shots were needed to ensure that vulnerable people are protected against COVID-19, because studies have shown that the immunity conferred by vaccines weakens over time. The panel recommende­d that people over 50 get a booster shot six months after they received their second dose of vaccine.

The move comes despite appeals from the WHO, which has urged rich countries with large supplies of COVID-19 vaccines to refrain from offering booster shots through the end of the year and make the doses available for poorer countries.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu­s appealed last week for restraint, saying he couldn’t stay silent when companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world’s poor should be satisfied with leftovers.

Israel has been providing third doses to a wide range of people who already received a full two-dose regimen months earlier. U.S. health officials are continuing to assess the science and usefulness of boosters for the general population; the Biden administra­tion has already proposed boosters to vulnerable people.

WHO officials insist that the scientific justificat­ion for boosters remains unclear.

Sarah Gilbert, an Oxford University professor who helped develop the AstraZenec­a vaccine, told the Daily Telegraph newspaper last week that immunity from the authorized vaccines was holding up well — even against the more transmissi­ble Delta variant.

While the elderly and those who are immune-compromise­d may need boosters, the standard two-dose regimen provides lasting protection for most people, she said.

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