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Covid-19 booster vaccination roll-out plan from September is revealed

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Millions of Covid-19 booster vaccinations are expected to be offered from September to those most vulnerable to the virus in the UK, it has been revealed.

The government’s plan is designed to ensure protection is maintained ahead of winter and against new variants of the virus.

Vaccinations are helping to keep Covid patients out of hospital
Vaccinations are helping to keep Covid patients out of hospital

It follows interim advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) - published today (June 30) - which has suggested a two-stage programme alongside the annual flu vaccination roll-out.

It will publish its final advice before September after taking into account data from booster trials such as Cov-Boost - which is being conducted in Cambridge and elsewhere - along with the latest epidemiological situation, the latest understanding of the effectiveness of vaccines over time and detail on emerging variants.

In stage one, the JVCI’s current advice suggests the following individuals should be offered a third dose Covid-19 booster vaccine and the annual influenza vaccine, as soon as possible from September 2021:

  • adults aged 16 years and over who are immunosuppressed;
  • those living in residential care homes for older adults;
  • all adults aged 70 years or over;
  • adults aged 16 years and over who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable;
  • frontline health and social care workers.

In stage two, the following people will be offered a third Covid-19 booster vaccine as soon as practicable after Stage 1, with equal emphasis on deployment of the influenza vaccine where eligible:

  • all adults aged 50 years and over
  • all adults aged 16 – 49 years who are in an influenza or Covid-19 at-risk group as outlined in the Green Book
  • Adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals.

With most younger adults receiving their second Covid-19 vaccine dose in late summer, the government said the JVCI will consider the benefits of booster vaccination in this group at a later time when more information is available.

Health secretary Sajid Javid speaks in the Commons
Health secretary Sajid Javid speaks in the Commons

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “The phenomenal vaccine rollout has already saved tens of thousands of lives and prevented millions of infections, helping to wrestle back control of the pandemic and ease lockdown restrictions so we can return to normal as soon as possible.

“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.”

Evidence so far suggests two doses of any of the Covid-19 vaccines used in the UK provide strong protection against severe disease for at least six months for most people, and there is evidence that some people will benefit from longer lasting protection.

But with rising cases expected in winter, along with seasonal flu, extra pressure is expected on the NHS.

Third jabs will be offered in autumn to the most vulnerable
Third jabs will be offered in autumn to the most vulnerable

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “Our Covid-19 vaccination programme has been a roaring success, with almost 85 per cent of adults across the UK receiving a first dose and more than 62 per cent getting both doses.

“We are now planning ahead to future-proof this progress and protect our most vulnerable from variants and flu ahead of the winter.

“Vaccines are the best way to stay on top of this virus and I urge everybody to take up the offer as soon as possible.”

Vaccination rates in Cambridge are the lowest in the East of England, partly due to the city’s lower age profile.

Walk-in vaccination clinics are being set up around the county - including throughout Cambridgeshire - to bolster take-up ahead of the planned release of lockdown restrictions on July 19.

Deputy chief medical officer for England, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said: “Where the UK has reached so far on vaccination is truly fantastic. But we need to keep going and finish giving second doses to those remaining adults who have not had them; this is the best thing we can do prevent the disease from making a comeback which disrupts society later in the year.

“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.

A Covid-19 vaccine
A Covid-19 vaccine

“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.

“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.

“Of course, we have to be driven by data, and there will be more data from vaccine booster studies for JCVI to look at over summer, so we should all remember that this advice is interim and might change between now and September; however JCVI has clearly set out the broad direction of travel which I agree with, and which ministers have accepted.”

ONS data earlier this month showed 94 per cent of adults had positive sentiment towards Covid-19 vaccination.

What impact have Covid-19 vaccines had?

Latest analysis from Public Health England (PHE) and the University of Cambridge suggests that vaccines have so far prevented an estimated 7.2 million infections and 27,000 deaths in England alone.

Everyone over the age of 18 and over is eligible for a vaccine and by July 19, all those aged 40 and over, and the clinically extremely vulnerable, who received their first dose by mid-May, will have been offered their second dose.

The government says it is “on track” to offer a first dose to all adults by July 19, two weeks earlier than originally envisaged.

The second dose is known to be key at providing extra protection against the easily transmissible Delta variant of Covid-19, which is responsible for the spiralling number of cases being seen in Cambridge.

PHE data shows the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 96 per cent effective and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is 92 per cent effective at preventing hospitalisation from Covid-19 after two doses.

Which jabs will be offered as boosters?

Details of which jab will be offered to which group have not been confirmed yet.

Studies such as the Cov-Boost trial are analysing whether switching the vaccination offered as a booster dose has any impact on the immune response.

One trial, called Com-Cov, led by the University of Oxford, has suggested mixing doses could have a positive effect.

In it, doses were administered four weeks apart to 850 volunteers aged 50 and above. It found that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, followed by the Pfizer-BioNTech jab led to higher antibodies and T cell responses than the other way around, but both mixes led to Both of these mixes induced higher antibodies than two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.

The study concluded the highest antibody response came after two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, while the highest T cell response was derived from giving the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab followed by Pfizer-BioNTech.

Results of a mixed dose trial following a 12-week jab interval are due next month.

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