Covid booster vaccines will be extended to people aged 50 and over, following a final recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
New health secretary Steve Barclay announced he has accepted the advice, with the programme due to start in England in ‘early autumn’.
A Covid vaccine will be offered to:
- residents in a care home for older adults and staff
- frontline health and social care workers, including unpaid carers
- all those 50 years of age and over
- people aged 5 to 49 years who are in a clinical risk group
- household contacts of those who are immunosuppressed
In addition, Mr Barclay announced the groups who will be eligible for this year’s flu vaccination programme in England.
He overturned the scrapping of the expanded campaign for free flu jabs announced earlier this year, confirming that the campaign will again include the over-50s and certain secondary school pupils ‘later in the season’.
In May, the JCVI recommended autumn Covid boosters for over-65s, care home residents and staff, frontline health and social workers and adults aged 16 to 64 years in a clinical risk group, under interim guidance.
However, NHS England had told commissioners to plan for a ‘maximum scenario’ of autumn boosters for all over-50s, as well as care home residents and carers, frontline health and social care workers and those in clinical risk groups – ‘subject to final JCVI advice’.
Mr Barclay said: ‘I have accepted the independent advice of the JCVI to offer an autumn Covid booster to people aged 50 and over, residents and staff in care homes for older adults, frontline health and social care workers, unpaid carers, individuals aged five to 49 in clinical risk groups and household contacts of those who are immunosuppressed.’
NHS staff and volunteers delivered an ‘outstanding service to the public through the biggest and fastest vaccination rollout in England’s history’, he said.
But he added: ‘Viruses spread more easily in the colder seasons with people socialising inside, so the risk of getting Covid is higher.’
And he warned that it is ‘absolutely vital’ the most vulnerable groups get a booster jab to ‘strengthen their immunity against serious disease over winter to protect themselves and reduce pressure on the NHS’.
He added: ‘The flu virus could also be highly infectious at this time of year, so today I am also announcing that those eligible for a free flu vaccination this year will include everyone aged 50 and over, primary school children and secondary school pupils in years 7, 8 and 9, as well as people in clinical risk groups, unpaid carers and household contacts of those who are immunosuppressed.’
GPs were given until yesterday to sign up for the autumn Covid booster campaign due to start in September.
But the BMA advised that they should review whether the reduced fee for delivering Covid jabs in the autumn programme impacts their ‘ability to undertake the enhanced service’.
Meanwhile, Moderna has ‘completed regulatory submissions’ for its new Omicron Covid vaccine, which could be used for autumn boosters in the UK if approved by the MHRA.
This story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.