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Backlash against boosters as top scientists say they won't take third jab until poorer countries have vaccines

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 19/9/2021 Sarah Knapton
a man holding a baseball bat: A man walks past a Covid-19 coronavirus awareness mural along the roadside in Chennai, India - Sri Loganathan/Zuma Press / eyevine © Sri Loganathan/Zuma Press / eyevine A man walks past a Covid-19 coronavirus awareness mural along the roadside in Chennai, India - Sri Loganathan/Zuma Press / eyevine

Scientists and medics have said they will refuse a third jab until poorer countries have access to vaccinations, in a backlash against the Government’s booster scheme.

From Monday the first 1.5million people will be contacted and invited to book their third jab, in a scheme which Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, said will "strengthen the wall of defence" against coronavirus.

Frontline healthcare workers are also included in the first tranche of booster jabs, but many doctors, nurses and scientists say they are uncomfortable having a further jab, when others around the world need it more.

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Dr Jake Dunning, an infectious diseases researcher at the University of Oxford and the Royal Free Hospital, told The Telegraph, that he would not accept a booster if offered, and said for younger, healthier people there was little evidence of any benefit.

“It’s like giving an extra life jacket to people already wearing functioning (but not always perfect) life jackets, just to 'make sure', while ignoring those people who have no life jackets whatsoever,” he said.

“I just feel very uneasy accepting a booster myself and I hope to draw attention to the ongoing crisis of inadequate vaccinations in poorer countries.

“There is evidence of a clinical need and likely benefit of a third 'booster' dose for some individuals, such as older adults. For many others, however, we have no evidence of need or benefit from a third booster dose, now or in the future.

“If there are others who feel like me and act in the same way, hopefully it will send a "not in my name" signal to my own government and other rich countries.”

Two doses are enough for most people

In recent weeks, several scientists have spoken out against the booster programme, with even Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, the lead scientist on the Oxford jab, claiming two doses were sufficient for most people.

Critics of the booster scheme claim that while the majority of adults in Britain had been vaccinated, only a tiny proportion of people in low income countries had received one or two doses of the vaccine.

Many other medics and scientists also took to social media yesterday to back Dr Dunning’s stance. t

Pouria Hadjibagheri, the Technical & development lead of the UK COVID-19 Dashboard for Public Health England (PHE) also said he was "struggling" with the decision, but had also decided against taking a third dose.

“I don't think that I can in good conscience accept one either,” he said on Twitter. “No matter how I look at it, I just can't convince myself.”

Dr Muge Cevik, a clinical lecturer in infectious diseases at the University of St Andrews and a member of the government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) also publicly agreed with Dr Dunning.

“As a healthy doubled vaxxed individual, I don’t think I can be more protected than I already am.”

Britain has committed to donating 100 million coronavirus vaccines to lower income countries and the first five million doses were sent to the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) for distribution in July. Doses have also been sent directly to countries including Kenya, Jamaica and Indonesia.

Sajid Javid, the Health and Social Care Secretary, said: “Booster doses are an important way of keeping the virus under control for the long term and will protect the most vulnerable through the winter months.

“I urge everyone who receives a letter or text to get their jab as soon as possible so we can strengthen the wall of defence across the country that each vaccine brings.”

Those currently eligible for boosters include anyone aged 50 and over, people living and working in care homes for the elderly, and frontline health and social care workers.

All those who are clinically extremely vulnerable and anyone aged 16 to 65 in an at-risk group for Covid (who were included in priority groups one to nine during the initial vaccine rollout) will also be eligible for a jab.

A government spokesman said: “We have committed to donate 100 million doses by June 2022 and have already delivered over 9 million doses to developing nations across Africa and Asia.

“We continue to work to ensure any vaccine that the UK does not need is reallocated to other countries who require it, wherever possible.

“It’s vital all those who are eligible for their booster jab get it as soon as they’re offered, to ensure all those most vulnerable to COVID-19 receive the best possible protection as we head into the winter months.”

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