Plans drawn up to roll out Covid booster jabs from September
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People most vulnerable to Covid-19 could be offered a booster vaccination from September to increase their protection ahead of the winter months.
Interim guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has set out guidance regarding who should get a third jab if a booster programme is needed.
Health officials believe a third Covid jab may be needed to keep protection levels high ahead of what may be a particularly bad influenza season.
The plans have been drawn up to ensure the NHS is prepared while officials wait on more data on whether a third vaccine is required.
Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, said: “Being able to manage COVID-19 with fewer or no restrictions is now heavily dependent on the continued success of the vaccination programme.
"We want to be on the front foot for Covid-19 booster vaccination to keep the probability of loss of vaccine protection due to waning immunity or variants as low as possible. Especially over the coming autumn and winter.
“Fewer or no restrictions will mean that other respiratory viruses, particularly flu, will make a comeback and quite possibly be an additional problem this winter, so we will need to ensure protection against flu as well as maintaining protection against COVID-19.
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“The announcement of interim advice from JCVI is good news. It shows that the vaccine experts are thinking carefully about how best to use vaccination to protect the most vulnerable and ensure everyone’s lives can remain as normal as possible for the autumn and winter."
The government said it is working closely with the NHS so that if a booster programme is needed, it can be deployed quickly from September.
Sajid Javid, health and social care secretary, who replaced West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock in the role this week, said: “We welcome this interim advice, which will help us ensure we are ready in our preparations for Autumn.
"We look forward to receiving the committee’s final advice in due course.
“We need to learn to live with this virus. Our first Covid-19 vaccination programme is restoring freedom in this country, and our booster programme will protect this freedom.
"We are working with the NHS to make sure we can rapidly deliver this programme to maintain protection for people in the winter months.”
Dependent on final advice, the booster programme will be designed to protect as many vulnerable people as possible from becoming seriously ill due to Covid-19 over the winter.
The following groups of people could be offered a third Covid jab - and a flu jab - from September.
- adults aged 16 and over who are immunosuppressed or clinically extremely vulnerable
- residents in care homes for older adults
- all adults aged 70 and over
- frontline health and social care workers
After those groups, adults aged 50 and over, adults aged 16-49 who are in a flu or Covid-19 at-risk group
and those living in the same house as people who are immunosuppressed will be eligible.