UK still looking at COVID booster shot options - vaccines minister

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British Vaccine Deployment Minister Nadhim Zahawi speaks at the House of Commons in London, Britain February 4, 2021. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS

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LONDON, May 5 (Reuters) - British officials are currently looking at which COVID-19 vaccines would offer the best booster shot for vulnerable people later this year and no decisions have been taken yet, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Wednesday.

Britain is quickly rolling out vaccines and has been the second quickest country in the world to give a first COVID-19 shot to at least half its adult population.

The government is already assessing the possible need for a third COVID-19 vaccine dose for the elderly and vulnerable, to be given in the autumn, after all adults are given their initial two-shot regime.

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"The clinicians haven't yet made their decision when they will need to boost, whether to give more immunity to the most vulnerable, to increase the durability of the protection, or to deal with a variant," Zahawi told Sky News.

Asked by the BBC about a Times newspaper report that over-50s would be targeted with the booster shots, Zahawi reiterated that no decisions had been taken. read more

Last week a Public Health England official said that any booster programme would be led by the need to protect against against variants, as high levels of protection offered by the current shots looked unlikely to wane quickly. read more

In order to boost research into vaccines against new variants, Britain said it would invest a further 30 million pounds ($41.67 million) into laboratory facilities at Porton Down.

When completed, the labs will be able to test 3,000 blood samples a week for antibodies generated by vaccines.

Previously the government had committed 20 million pounds to increase capacity to 1,500 weekly samples from 700 by January 2022.

Health minister Matt Hancock said that the investment would "enable us to further future-proof the country from the threat of new variants."

($1 = 0.7199 pounds)

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Reporting by Andy Bruce; editing by Guy Faulconbridge

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