Everyone over 40-years-old should be invited for a Covid booster vaccine, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has announced.
In a press conference this morning (15 November), Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of the JCVI’s Covid-19 vaccine subcommittee, confirmed it was recommending the booster programme be extended from today.
Until now, the booster programme was available to over-50s, all frontline health and social care workers, and people over-16 who have or live with someone who has a health condition that puts them at high risk.
This announcement means the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines will now be offered to over-40s six months after their previous shot, in line with the recommended gap for all over-50s.
It was also confirmed today that 16-17-year-olds should get a second dose of the Covid vaccine when offered, after they began receiving invitations for a first dose in August.
According to the latest data, 12 million people have received their third Covid jab. With the new cohort inviting a further 8 million people for their jab, as many as 32 million people will be eligible for the programme by Christmas.
However, in light of only a third of eligible adults having come forward for their booster, the committee was asked if extending the programme to over-40s would ‘make a real difference this winter’.
Professor Wei Shen Lim admitted ‘we still have some way to go’ in getting older people to come forward, however he suggested it could be that a third dose gives longer immunity than the six months afforded by just having two doses.
Meanwhile, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer, warned the country is in for some ‘difficult months over the winter’, adding that we are at an epidemiologically ‘unpredictable’ point making it more difficult to determine how the pandemic will proceed.
This comes after both the Government and NHS England were warned that the booster programme needs more flexibility to help keep the NHS from breaching a ‘tipping point’.
A report published last week by the NHS Confederation said NHS IT systems need to be capable of sharing ‘accurate data’ across the system so that services know ‘where the gaps remain and in what communities’.
Earlier this week, national data revealed that clinically vulnerable people who are vaccine hesitant are less likely to change their minds and receive a Covid jab than non-clinically vulnerable people.
Last week, the DHSC announced that these practices can now administer some boosters five months after a patients’ second vaccine dose to help with co-administering flu vaccines.
By cutting the wait between doses from six months to five, some vulnerable groups including housebound patients will be able to receive the flu and Covid vaccines in a single appointment, it said.