Brits may need three Covid vaccinations to go on holiday next summer but under-50s are unlikely to receive a booster until ‘well after Christmas’, it has been revealed.
Care minister Gillian Keegan, 53, said the vaccine passport system will evolve, which could mean having three jabs to be able to jet off.
But an anonymous source on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said boosters for people under the age of 50 would most probably be given ‘well after Christmas’.
The JCVI member said the committee would probably not extend the booster roll-out to other groups of people until more tangible progress was made with people eligible for the third vaccine at the moment.
Meanwhile, a Government scientific adviser said he is ‘very fearful’ there will be another ‘lockdown Christmas’.
Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) and SAGE subgroup CO-CIN, said case numbers and death rates are currently ‘unacceptable’.
Britain’s daily Covid hospitalisations yesterday breached 1,000 for the first time in six weeks.
But SAGE scientists insisted it was ‘highly unlikely’ that the NHS would be overwhelmed by the virus this winter even without restrictions.
Modelling by the group for England predicted that the combination of vaccine-acquired immunity and natural protection would be enough to keep hospital rates below levels seen during the second wave.
Brits could need three Covid vaccinations to go on holiday next summer but over-50s are unlikely to receive a booster until ‘well after Christmas’
Doctor Abhi Mantgani administers a Covid-19 vaccine booster to Joanne Coombs at Birkenhead Medical Building in Birkenhead, Merseyside, today
Only around 4.5million (green line) out of the 9.3million eligible people (blue line) in England have received the crucial third dose, prompting ministers to urge people to come forward for their inoculations
‘We haven’t discussed it yet and I think it would probably be well after Christmas,’ they told the i.
‘When you think about how long ago most of these people had [their second jab], they’re still within the six-month range. And bearing in mind a lot of people will have had Covid – they’re essentially tripled covered.’
They added: ‘There’s a very tired workforce who are, to be honest, much more concerned about their own patients getting their cancer check-ups and checking up on chest problems as well as they can be, going into winter.’
They said the Government’s mixed messaging was ‘very bad’ and a ‘do as we say not do as we do’ attitude.
Meanwhile, care minister Keegan said: ‘The advice at the moment is the double-jabbed vaccination. But of course, that will evolve as the third dose comes in.
‘It would be unreasonable to say now, when we’ve only just started the programme.
‘We’re trying to get this balance. It’s two doses for now.
‘But as the vaccine passport concept will evolve there will be ‘if you’ve had your booster’ because it’s probably not going to be good for next summer.’
Her comments came days after she rebuked Jacob Rees-Mogg for arguing that Tory MPs do not need to wear coverings in the House of Commons because they ‘know each other’.
The third vaccine saw a low uptake with just 3.7 million people taking it out of a possible 7.9 million.
The Government denied there were any plans to alter vaccine passports to mean people would need three jabs to go on holiday abroad but millions could be affected if a U-turn occurred.
Meanwhile, Professor Openshaw, of Imperial College London, told BBC Breakfast: ‘I’m very fearful that we’re going to have another lockdown Christmas if we don’t act soon.
‘We know that with public health measures the time to act is immediately. There’s no point in delaying.
‘If you do delay then you need to take even more stringent actions later. The immediacy of response is absolutely vital if you’re going to get things under control.
‘We all really, really want a wonderful family Christmas where we can all get back together.
‘If that’s what we want, we need to get these measures in place now in order to get transmission rates right down so that we can actually get together and see one another over Christmas.’
Professor Openshaw said it is ‘unacceptable to be letting this run at the moment’, adding: ‘I think the hospitals in many parts of the country are barely coping actually.
‘Talking to people on the front line, I think it’s just not sustainable to keep going at this rate.
‘I think it’s just unacceptable to see the number of deaths that we’ve got at the moment.
‘At one stage last week there were 180 deaths in a single day. That is just too many deaths. We seem to have got used to the idea that we’re going to have many, many people dying of Covid and that I think is just not the case.
‘We need to slow down transmission and really redouble efforts to get everyone vaccinated and all the boosters out, and then we can open up again.’
Modelling by SAGE predicted that the combination of vaccine-acquired immunity and natural protection would be enough to keep hospital rates below levels seen in the second wave. Even in the most pessimistic scenarios, the group estimated that daily Covid hospital admissions would not rise above 1,500. More optimistic models had them peaking at below 1,000 in winter. The above charts are based on modelling by Warwick University and look at how quickly people go back to pre-pandemic social contacts. It was based on the booster doses given ‘sustained’ immunity
Other SAGE modelling took into account ‘repeated’ waning from booster doses, and projected that hospital admissions could breach levels seen during the second wave in January under the worst-case projections
Care Minister Gillian Keegan said ‘everybody knows that you can get Covid from anybody’
Her comments were in response to Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg suggesting Tory MPs did not need to wear masks in the chamber because they ‘know each other’
Professor Openshaw was asked what he would say to people who have concerns about what they can do to stop the spread of the virus in the event of the Government not reintroducing measures.
He told the programme: ‘I think take matters into your own hands. Don’t wait necessarily for Government policy.
‘I’m very, very reluctant now to go into crowded spaces because I know that roughly one in 60 people in a crowded space are going to have the virus.
‘If you can, cycle to work, don’t go on public transport.
‘I think do everything possible in your control to try to reduce transmission. Don’t wait for the Government to change policy.
‘The sooner we all act, the sooner we can get this transmission rate down, and the greater the prospect of having a Christmas with our families.’
Elsewhere, the World Health Organisation warned the vaccine alone will not be able to lift the world out of the pandemic.
Spokesperson Margaret Harris told Times Radio: ‘The problem is focusing on one thing, the vaccine isn’t going to get us out of this.
‘We really have to do other measures.
‘We have got to be serious about not crowding. We have still got to be looking at wearing the masks, when you’re indoors particularly.’
Scientific advisers have told the Government it must ensure Plan B restrictions to tackle coronavirus can be ‘rapidly’ deployed if needed.
Experts on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said, in minutes of a meeting published on Friday, that a further huge spike in infections as seen in January was ‘increasingly unlikely’, as experts predicted a series of broader, flatter peaks as the virus continues to spread.
However, in its meeting dated October 14, Sage warned measures from the Government’s Plan B would have greatest effect if brought in in unison and earlier on rather than later.
Scientists are in favour of a relatively light-touch approach, implemented earlier to make a difference, with Sage saying the ‘reintroduction of working-from-home guidance is likely to have the greatest individual impact on transmission out of the proposed measures’ in Plan B.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak told The Times the country could not return to ‘significant economic restrictions’ and that the vaccine rollout meant this was not necessary, while Boris Johnson also said on Friday that another lockdown was not planned.
UK Hospitality CEO Kate Nicholls warned that businesses will not survive another winter of lockdown restrictions.
Asked on Times Radio if she thought businesses would survive if the Government goes ahead with Plan B, she said: ‘No I don’t, bluntly. We have already lost 12,000 businesses.’
She said that when restrictions are in place ‘consumers do stay at home, they don’t go out and socialise’.