Around 30 million people will be offered a COVID booster jab from next week, the Health and Social Care Secretary has said.
Sajid Javid told the Commons that over-50s, younger adults with health conditions and all frontline health and social care workers should be offered a third jab as part of the government’s plan for managing COVID through the autumn and winter.
The JCVI has advised that these groups should receive a booster of the Pfizer jab regardless of the vaccine they received first time around, to be given at least six months after their second dose.
It said the third dose would top up the immunity in those whose protection had likely waned since they completed their first round of shots earlier in the year.
Javid said: “Our vaccine rollout has been phenomenal. It’s vital that we do everything we can to prolong the protection our vaccines offer, particularly for those most vulnerable to COVID-19 as we head into the Autumn and Winter months. I have today accepted the advice from the independent experts at the JCVI to offer a booster vaccine to those most at risk.
“The booster programme will start next week thanks to the extensive preparations the NHS has already made to ensure booster jabs can be rolled out as quickly as possible.
“I urge all those eligible to get their COVID-19 and flu vaccines as soon as they can, so you have the strongest possible protection over the winter months.”
The government said in its winter plan that is possible that further doses of the COVID-19 vaccine may be offered in the future to reinforce protection.
“Subject to advice, this may include annual vaccination programmes – as is the case with the flu vaccination – for those who need additional protection,” the paper said.
“Reformulated vaccines to target new variants of the virus and new ways of administering vaccines could play a role in future vaccination programmes. The UK Vaccine Taskforce has already procured vaccines to run further booster programmes in autumn 2022 if necessary, and will continue to look to future deployment needs.”
Javid also told the Commons that the government has a “plan B” of contingency measures that could be rolled out in England if there are “unsustainable” pressures on the NHS over the autumn and winter.
He said this includes further government communication, making masks mandatory again in certain settings, vaccine passports for events, and encouraging working from home again.
But he says these measures would only be used if they are “needed and supported by the data”.