Covid jabs 'could be mixed' to speed up vaccinations, leading scientist tells LBC

10 January 2021, 14:06 | Updated: 10 January 2021, 15:29

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

People could receive a mixture of coronavirus jabs to speed up inoculations, a leading vaccinations expert has told LBC.

Speaking on LBC's Swarbrick on Sunday, Professor of Respiratory Infection at UCL Jeremy Brown explained that scientists are researching whether offering a cocktail of shots would be effective and safe.

Prof Brown, who is a member of the government's Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation (JCVI), suggested patients could receive one jab of the Pfizer vaccine and another from AstraZeneca as a matter of pragmatism.

Asked by LBC's Tom Swarbrick whether people could receive two different vaccines to keep them protected against coronavirus, the professor said: "Those trials are being run, of one vaccine being followed by a second.

"They largely depend on the same spike protein, it's just the carrier in the vaccine that's different between them, so, in theory, you could mix between them.

"We're not planning to do that at the moment but we'll get the data and see whether it's feasible because, from a pragmatic point of view, it might be necessary."

Read more: NHS facing 'most dangerous situation in memory', Prof Whitty warns

Watch: Young people may have to be locked down until vaccinated, expert says

People could receive different vaccines if research supports the move
People could receive different vaccines if research supports the move. Picture: PA
Prof Brown told LBC he is confident the government will meet its vaccination target
Prof Brown told LBC he is confident the government will meet its vaccination target. Picture: LBC

He was then asked whether there have been alterations done to any vaccines to account for new variants, such as the ones first seen in the UK and South Africa.

"Technically, it's relatively straight forward to make a new vaccine to counter a new variant," Prof Brown replied.

"The question is, which new variant do you need to counter? Whether it's the 27th or the 28th or the 41st, that's the problem.

"You can make the new vaccine relatively straight forward, but then to do the testing and get the regulatory approval etcetera is a bit more, well, that takes time."

It comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the media on Sunday that every adult in the country should receive their Covid-19 vaccination by the autumn.

Read more: Mass testing for asymptomatic people to be rolled out

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Prof Brown told LBC that reaching the target would be a "challenge" for the government but he is "pretty confident" it will be achieved given the UK already had a "well-established" winter flu vaccinations programme to build on.

When asked how every adult would be vaccinated by the autumn, he said: "We just carry on, essentially, the vaccination programme needs to ramp up and deliver two million vaccines a week, as suggested, and we'll just carry on doing that right through to the autumn."

The health secretary also confirmed that more than 200,000 people are currently getting a coronavirus jab every day, meaning the government is on course to reach its target of two million vaccinations a week.

As the vaccine rollout gathers pace, more than half a million over-80s are due to receive invitations this week to sign up to receive a jab.

The first 130,000 invitations were set to arrive over the weekend, as the government strives to meet its target of offering inoculations to almost 14 million vulnerable people in the UK by mid-February.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "There are deeply challenging weeks ahead, but today signals another significant step forward in the race to protect the public, and defeat the virus."

The UK leader had previously admitted that the UK is in a race to vaccinate as many people as possible before they become infected.

Minister of Innovation at the Department of Health and Social Care Lord Bethell said Mr Hancock's update on the vaccination target is "encouraging" but added that there is still a "long way to go".

"Encouraging update on the vaccines roll-out by @MattHancock. A long way to go, but huge amounts of progress already and moving fast in the right direction," he wrote on Twitter.

It comes as the government announced that regular rapid testing for people without Covid symptoms will be rolled out across England in the next week.

Councils will be encouraged to test people who are unable to work from home during the third national lockdown, which will include police officers, supermarket workers and taxi drivers.

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