The COVID booster jab should be rolled out to people under-50, a leading scientist has suggested.
Professor Neil Ferguson said giving the third jab to younger people could reduce coronavirus infections.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme he found "no reason why we shouldn't be rolling them (booster jabs) out to younger age groups, once we've got through the priority groups, the over 50s and the clinically very vulnerable".
Prof Ferguson, head of Imperial College London’s modelling group, said data from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine had indicated that expanding eligibility for the booster shots could help “drive down transmission to low levels”.
Currently, the government has only recommended those over 50, people with some underlying medical issues and frontline medical workers to receive a booster.
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Data around the impact of the booster in the UK will be released next week, but Prof Ferguson added statistics from Israel suggested a third jab protected people from both severe and mild disease.
Prof Ferguson said it would ultimately be up to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to decide if under-50s received a third jab.
He also added he felt it is “unlikely” Britain will see a “catastrophic winter wave” similar to last year, which led to months of further lockdown across the country.
With high levels of COVID immunity and a strong booster vaccination programme, the epidemiologist said he “very much” hoped a clampdown of the sort being ordered in some parts of Europe could be avoided in the UK.
The prediction comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that “storm clouds” of a new coronavirus wave are gathering over parts of Europe.
Many European countries are seeing an increase in cases and preparing to step up restrictions.
The Netherlands has confirmed a three-week partial lockdown amid surging cases, Austria is set to impose a lockdown on unvaccinated people, while German politicians are considering legislation that would pave the way for new measures at the same time as the country’s disease control centre is urging people to cancel or avoid large events.
Prof Ferguson said the UK is in “quite a different situation” to its European counterparts due to having a greater level of immunity among its population following months of high virus prevalence.
He said the fast rollout of booster jabs has also given the UK an advantage in the fight to control COVID.
New data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has suggested infection levels are continuing to fall across the UK.
The figures show about one in 60 people in private households in England had Covid-19 in the week to 6 November, down from one in 50 the previous week.
In Wales, about one in 45 people is estimated to have had the virus in the week to 6 November, down from one in 40 the previous week.
In Northern Ireland, the figure is about one in 75 people, down from one in 65 the previous week, while in Scotland it is one in 85 – down from one in 80.
Meanwhile, the i newspaper has reported that the Government does not expect the pandemic to be over for at least another year, and in a worst-case scenario lockdowns could be needed until 2026.
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