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Covid-19 booster vaccinations extended to all over 40s and those aged 16-17 offered second vaccine dose

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The government is extending the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine booster programme to include healthy 40 to 49-year-olds.

It follows advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) that all adults over the age of 40 should be offered a third vaccination, six months after their second dose.

A Covid-19 jab is prepared. Picture: PA
A Covid-19 jab is prepared. Picture: PA

It also said 16 and 17-year-olds should come forward for their second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, which should be given at least 12 weeks after the first.

The JCVI said that the broadening of the booster campaign and the offer of a second jab to 16 and 17-year-olds will “help extend our protection into 2022”.

Ministers have urged the public to get their boosters when called to save Christmas.

Government minister Oliver Dowden said it was up to the public whether new controls would need to be imposed.

Cambridge Independent analysis has shown that in Cambridgeshire, the Covid-19 infection rate is higher among those aged 40-44 and 45-49 than any group aged over 19.

It is thought this partly reflects the transmission to parents from school age children, who have had the highest infection rates of all during the autumn term.

Cambridgeshire was made an Enhanced Response Area for the virus from November 1, for at least five weeks, following a high infection rate that was reaching vulnerable age groups.

So far, some 12.6 million people nationwide have had a third Covid-19 jab.

The JCVI said people should be offered the Pfizer or Moderna jab as a booster, irrespective of which vaccine they had initially, unless they cannot have those vaccines and require the AstraZeneca one instead.

A new study has shown how boosters can significantly increase people’s protection against getting a symptomatic case of Covid-19.

Two weeks after getting their booster, adults over 50 had at least 93 per cent reduced risk of getting a symptomatic case of Covid-19, according to a study from the UK Health Security Agency (UKSHA).

Protection against more severe disease and death is expected to be even higher.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of Covid-19 immunisation for the JCVI, said: “Booster vaccine doses in more vulnerable adults, and second vaccine doses in 16 to 17-year-olds are important ways to increase our protection against COVID-19 infection and severe disease. These vaccinations will also help extend our protection into 2022.

“If you are eligible, please make sure to have these vaccines and keep yourselves protected as we head into winter.”

Daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK. Graph: PA
Daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK. Graph: PA

Health secretary: This is a national mission

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Our Covid-19 vaccination rollout has been a phenomenal success, saving countless lives, reducing pressure on the NHS and helping us stop the spread of the virus.

“We are expanding the programme even further and today I have accepted the advice from the independent experts at the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to extend the additional offer of a booster jab to people aged 40 and over and offer a second dose of a vaccine to all young people aged 16 to 17 as part of the primary vaccination schedule. All four parts of the UK intend to follow the JCVI’s advice.

“I have asked the NHS to prepare to offer those eligible a vaccine as soon as possible.

“We know immunity to Covid-19 begins to wane after six months and new data published today shows a third dose boosts protection against symptomatic infection to more than 90 per cent – this highlights just how important it is that everyone eligible gets their top-up jabs as soon as possible.

“The JCVI will keep under review whether the booster programme should be extended to all people under the age of 40 and I look forward to receiving their advice in due course.

“This is a national mission – the vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones and I urge everybody to get your jabs as soon as you can.”

How to get your jabs

Appointments can be made for boosters by visiting www.nhs.uk/covidvaccine or by calling 119 if it has been five months (152 days) since you had your second dose and you are in an eligible age group. In Cambridgeshire, local vaccination services at GP surgeries and medical centres are being co-ordinated by primary care networks, while large-scale vaccination hubs are also offering boosters. A few walk-in centres are now offering boosters - check https://www.thevaccinators.co.uk/ for details.

Meanwhile, anyone over 16 can get their jabs without an appointment at walk-in centres across the county.

‘Positive safety profile’

Dr June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA, added: “We welcome today’s announcement by the JCVI, on the extension of the booster campaign to 40-49 year olds.

“This further strengthens our ability to ensure people are protected against Covid-19 and saves lives.

“Our safety monitoring to date shows that Covid-19 vaccines continue to have a positive safety profile for the majority of people. The vast majority of reactions which are reported relate to expected side-effects such as injection site reactions and flu-like symptoms, as was seen in our initial assessment.

“Our proactive monitoring of the safety of booster doses does not raise any new concerns.

Extra doses of Covid-19 vaccine in the UK. Graph: PA
Extra doses of Covid-19 vaccine in the UK. Graph: PA

“We also welcome the recommendation for 16 to 17-year-olds to come forward and have a second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

“People can be reassured that when we gave approval for the Pfizer vaccine for those 16 years and over in December 2020, we had thoroughly reviewed all the clinical trial data.

“We have continued to carefully scrutinise all the data we have available to us and our robust surveillance programme includes monitoring all suspected reactions for adolescents as well as adults.

“We ensure all suspected reports are carefully followed up. The Expert Working Group of the Commission on Human Medicines has confirmed that reports of suspected myocarditis (heart inflammation) following Covid-19 vaccines are extremely rare and that the balance of risks and benefits overall remains favourable.”

‘In our hands to save Christmas’

Earlier on Monday, Mr Dowden said the vaccination programme offers the best assurance that further Covid-19 restrictions will not be needed over Christmas.

The Conservative Party chairman told Sky News: “It is in our hands. If you get the booster when the call comes, that is the biggest wall of defence that we have against Covid.

“I am confident that if we stick the course, people take the boosters when they are asked to do so, that vaccine wall will hold up and we will be able to have a decent Christmas this year.

“There are no plans to stop Christmas happening. The huge difference this time is the vaccine.”

Read more

Covid-19 case number fall by a quarter in Cambridgeshire as infection rate declines in younger age groups

What it means for you as Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are given Enhanced Response Area status amid rising Covid-19 rates

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