The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) announced on August 22nd the widely trailed information that a 4th vaccination shot for COVID-19 would be rolled out to all over 50s from early September. The great majority of these shots will be the Moderna bivalent Omicron BA.1/Original “wild-type” Spikevax vaccine.
This makes the UK the first country to roll out a bivalent vaccine, which the UKHSA describes as a “variant busting booster jab”, but arguably the choice of the BA.1 variant is already behind the curve, with the US planning to use BA.4/BA.5 specific vaccines in their autumn booster campaigns. Given that it is widely accepted that BA.4 and BA.5 can escape a high proportion of neutralising antibodies from previous vaccination or infection, the BA.1 choice may be less effective.
There is also ongoing discussion about which groups should receive boosters. It is widely accepted that clinically vulnerable groups should be boosted, but many argue that boosters should be available to all adults rather than to just the over 50s. Tony Blair made a statement this week in a paper discussing the pressures on the NHS that argued for vaccination for all over 18s to reduce NHS pressures over the winter, which are likely to be extreme. It is perhaps relevant to note that other proposals from Blair have later become government policy.
What does all of this mean for you as an individual? Depending on your age you may be invited for a booster in the coming months. In the meantime how do you know how vulnerable you are to infection? The Attomarker COVID-19 Antibody Immunity Test is available to anyone in the UK, and will provide you with a clear result indicating your likely level of immunity to infection. That knowledge can help you modify your behaviour, such as wearing masks or avoiding crowds, and even allow you to check the response to a booster several weeks after receiving it.
Details of how to access these tests, and what information they provide are available here.