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Regular ‘booster’ shots will become commonplace as new variants emerge, says UK’s Covid-19 genomics chief

“We have to appreciate that we were always going to have to have booster doses; immunity to coronavirus doesn’t last forever,” Sharon Peacock, UK Covid-19 Genomics (COG-UK) chief, told Reuters at the Wellcome Sanger Institute’s Cambridge campus on Monday.  

Peacock, whose COG-UK programme has sequenced half of the world’s mapped Covid-19 genomes, said she was confident new variants would emerge that would render the current vaccines ineffective. 

“We already are tweaking the vaccines to deal with what the virus is doing in terms of evolution – so there are variants arising that have a combination of increased transmissibility and an ability to partially evade our immune response,” she said. 

The genomics chief said the “cat and mouse” battle with the virus will require international cooperation. COG-UK was set up a year ago by Peacock and the British government’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, and has sequenced 346,713 genomes out of a total of 709,000 genomes mapped worldwide.

To date, more than 24 million people in the UK have received at least their first vaccine dose; all vaccines being used have demonstrated considerable efficacy against the virus variants prevalent in Britain. 

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