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Solving COVID

U.K. vaccine minister anticipating 'annual' booster COVID-19 shots to fend off variants

Nadhim Zahawi, the United Kingdom's vaccine minister, anticipates the need for people to get vaccinated annually to protect against coronavirus mutations, BBC reports. The speculation comes as the vaccine developed by the promising University of Oxford and AstraZeneca was shown to offer only "minimal protection" against mild COVID-19 infections from the so-called South African variant of the coronavirus in a not-yet-peer-reviewed study.

"We see very much probably an annual or booster in the autumn and then an annual [shot], in the way we do with flu vaccinations where you look at what variant of virus is spreading throughout the world, rapidly produce a variant of vaccine, and then begin to vaccinate and protect the nation," Zahawi said.

The good news is that Prof. Sarah Gilbert, Oxford's lead vaccine developer, thinks the shots will prevent severe disease from the South African variant, and therefore should still help lift the burden on health care systems in the meantime. Beyond that, it sounds like her team will be able to adapt relatively quickly — she added that Oxford and AstraZeneca will likely have a modified version of the vaccine available in the fall that will be wired to defend against the South African variant. Read more at BBC.