Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs on the Health and Social Care Committee on Thursday (7 Jan) that people may need to have a Covid vaccine every six months.
Mr Hancock said that he anticipates people will need to be revaccinated, saying “we don’t know the longevity of the protection from these vaccines.”
“We don’t know how frequently it will be, but it might need to be every six months, it might need to be every year,” Mr Hancock added.
Covid tests will still be in place next year
Mr Hancock also told the Committee that there was “no doubt” that both vaccines and testing for Covid will still be “a feature next year.”
In regards to Covid testing, he said: “We will need both the surveillance testing to be able to understand where the virus is and we will need testing for people who have symptoms, in the same way that you get tested for all sorts of other things.”
However, when asked if he thought this would be the “last of the lockdowns” because of the vaccines, Mr Hancock replied: “I do, yes.”
Coronavirus patients to receive rheumatoid arthritis drugs
It was also announced on Thursday that critically ill Covid patients admitted to intensive care units across the UK will be able to receive new rheumatoid arthritis drugs to help reduce the risk of death.
NHS patients will have access to tocilizumab and sarilumab – two drugs typically used to treat rheumatoid arthritis - which have been found to “significantly” reduce the risk of death from Covid, alongside the time spent in hospital by up to 10 days.
Results from the government-funded REMAP-CAP clinical trial showed that both of the drugs reduced the risk of mortality by 8.5 percentage points, when administered to patients within a day of entering intensive care alongside a corticosteroid.
Professor Anthony Gordon, chair in anaesthesia and critical care at Imperial College London and a consultant in intensive care medicine at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “This is a significant finding which could have immediate implications for the sickest patients with Covid-19.
“We found that among critically ill adult patients – those receiving breathing support in intensive care – treatment with these drugs can improve their chances of survival and recovery.
“At a time when hospitalisations and deaths from Covid-19 are soaring in the UK, it’s crucial we continue to identify effective treatments which can help to turn the tide against this disease.”