Millions of Brits lined up for Covid booster jabs from September to stop winter case spike

COVID booster jabs are being lined up for over-50s in the UK this autumn to head off another spike in virus deaths.

The NHS has been told to get ready for a rollout of third doses beginning as soon as September.

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Third vaccine shots are being lined up for the most vulnerable this September. Pictured: Geoff Corner receives a Pfizer Covid-19 vaccination at Adwick Leisure Centre, in Doncaster, June 27

Millions could get a third shot alongside the annual flu programme after advice from the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

The JCVI, which advises the government on how to use vaccines in the UK, said today that Brits “should be prepared” for another round of jabs.

Ministers will make a final decision later in the summer about whether to use a booster campaign.

The extra jabs could be called off if studies show they’re not needed, considering two vaccines are highly effective already. 

But the NHS has been told to prepare for a rollout in case it gets given the green-light.

The campaign would work in two stages, with over-70s, care home residents, extremely vulnerable people and health and care workers up first.

Then all over-50s and under-50s with long-term health problems would get the offer as soon as possible. 

Each person on the list will get one more jab – it may be of the same type as their first two or a different one.

It will ensure their Covid protection is the strongest possible over the winter, when viruses tend to spread more and pressure on the NHS is already higher.

Officials added it “seems unlikely” that younger adults will need to get another jab because they should get at least six months’ immunity from the second doses, lasting into 2022.

Medics say they still don’t know how badly Covid will hit the UK this winter but fear it will double up with flu to trigger a wave of virus patients.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, COVID-19 Chair for JCVI, said vulnerable people are “strongly advised to have the flu vaccine” this year. 

He added: “We will continue to review emerging scientific data over the next few months, including data relating to the duration of immunity from the current vaccines. 

“Our final advice on booster vaccination may change substantially.”

PROTECT FREEDOMS

Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said keeping vaccine momentum is “the best thing we can do to prevent the disease from making a comeback”.

After the JCVI’s initial advice, he 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.”

 

He warned that, without restrictions in place, flu and other viruses will also resurge.

“We will need to ensure protection against flu as well as maintaining protection against Covid-19”, he said. 

The new Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said boosters will “protect freedoms” in the UK.

He said: “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.”

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said plans are underway to “protect our most vulnerable from variants and flu”.

The vaccines have been shown to protect against new variants, including the now dominant Delta version.

Data from Public Health England (PHE) shows that two doses of either the Pfizer or Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine are more than 90 per cent effective against hospitalisation caused by Delta.

However, a new variant with a better ability to dodge immunity could sweep the UK, as Delta has.

Ethical concerns

Experts have raised concerns about using third doses in the UK while Covid rages on elsewhere in the world.

Dr David Elliman, Consultant in Community Child Health, said today: “When, in large parts of the world, there is not enough vaccine to give ONE dose to the adult population, is it right that we should be using up vaccine in this way?

“Can we, in all conscience, justify this.

“There are some people who are at particular risk, where the addition of a booster may make a substantial difference, particularly those who have major problems with their immune system and some occupations. In those cases, it would be entirely justified.

“But for all adults, at the expense of others for whom there would be much greater benefit?”

It comes after a leading scientist at Oxford said he did not think third jabs were needed – even though the university’s study showed it leads to  “a substantial increase in antibodies”.

Prof Sir Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said the research did not prove “that we need boosters”.

He said “boosters are much more about if protection gets lost over time” and it wasn’t clear that this was the case after two jabs.

He added it would be “unacceptable” to give fully-protected Brits unnecessary booster jabs when parts of the world have yet to receive any vaccine.