Jonathan Van-Tam explained that winter flu vaccines are changed every year to match the type of virus circulating at the time. He compared this to new coronavirus strains which have emerged in recent months as he said it is likely the vaccine for the disease may need to be updated. Speaking to LBC, Professor Van-Tam said: “I can’t say whether the vaccine will be needed every year yet.
“What I think we will do over time is to make it largely vaccine-preventable in the same way that flu is and be able to live with it safely.
“The virus will change anyway over time and therefore we may need to reformulate these vaccines periodically.
“This is a normal situation for winter flu vaccines where we have to change the strain every year to match what we think is going to be circulating in the winter.”
He added: “We have to be on our guard to make sure that the virus doesn’t outwit the vaccines we have.
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“We will be doing the studies to look at antibody levels in people who’ve been vaccinated and keep an eye on those over time so we can spot when they’re drifting down.
“If we start to see that the vaccine effectiveness is wearing off over time that will be another signal that we possibly need to re-vaccinate people.”
It comes as AstraZeneca is “imminently” scaling up to release two million doses of its vaccine per week in the UK, and may be able to go above that from April, the firm’s chief executive has said.
Tom Keith-Roach, president of AstraZeneca UK, said 1.1 million doses of the company’s Covid-19 jab developed with Oxford University had been released to the UK to date, but the aim was to reach two million doses per week on or before the middle of February.
He said the middle of February was a “conservative position” and said the firm had been asked by the UK Vaccines Taskforce “not to share in public forum in detail daily delivery schedules and locations for security reasons.
“As you can imagine it’s very sensitive, but I can reassure you that we will scale to two million doses per week very quickly.”
Later, he said the firm could not commit to doses above two million per week but it may be they could “increase that somewhat as we move into quarter two”.
Mr Keith-Roach also told MPs the “vast majority” of the fill-and-finish packing around the vaccines is done in the UK.