All over 50s will be offered Covid booster vaccine alongside winter flu jab

All over 50s will be offered a Covid booster jab (Photo: Getty Images)

All over 50s will be offered Covid booster vaccine as part of plans to tackle the virus through the winter.

Health experts have said that the Pfizer vaccine should be used as the booster dose for more than 30 million people, and is safe to be given alongside the winter flu jab.

Who will be eligible for the booster vaccine?

The government has announced that a third dose will be given to people aged 50 and over, those in care homes and frontline health and social care workers.

All those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, and anyone aged 16 to 65 in an at-risk group group for Covid (who were in priority groups one to nine during the initial vaccine rollout), will also be eligible for a jab.

While the AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have all been approved as safe and effective as boosters, experts have decided to opt for Pfizer as a preference after studies showed it is well tolerated and works well as a third dose.

The Pfizer jab can be given as a booster to those who previously had two doses of AstraZeneca.

If necessary, Moderna may be used as an alternative but only as a half-dose booster shot after studies showed it was effective with few side-effects.

When will the jabs be rolled out?

Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the Commons that the NHS would contact all those who are eligible and was preparing to offer the jabs from next week.

Wales has also said it will begin a rollout of booster vaccines, while Scotland and Northern Ireland are expected to announce plans later on Tuesday.

The government has said that people should receive their third booster dose at least six months after they received their second dose of a Covid vaccine.

Once more data is available, it is expected that boosters will also be offered to healthy people under the age of 50.

The boosters are expected to be given to people over the age of 50 at the same time as flu jabs, Dr June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has said.

She told a Downing Street briefing: “The data reviewed showed that giving the booster jabs with flu vaccines at the same time is safe and does not affect an individual’s immune response to either vaccine.

“Therefore, Covid-19 booster doses may be given at the same time as flu vaccines.

“We have in place a comprehensive safety strategy for monitoring the safety of all Covid-19 vaccines, and this surveillance includes the booster jabs.

“As with first and second doses, if anyone has any suspected side effects, please report using Yellow Card.”

Why are booster jabs being offered?

The rollout comes amid concerns that the protection offered by the vaccines fades over time.

Ministers believe that providing a booster jab will boost this protection and help to ensure the NHS is not overwhelmed by a surge in new coronavirus cases during the autumn and winter.

However, the booster programme has been criticised by some scientists, who argue the vaccine should be prioritised for other countries which have limited supplies first.

England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam warned of a “bumpy” winter ahead as he set out the findings of the review of Covid-19 booster jabs.

At a Downing Street press conference, he said vaccines had been “incredibly successful” and had so far prevented an estimated 24 million Covid-19 cases and 112,000 deaths.

Mr Van-Tam added: “We also know that this pandemic is still active. We are not past the pandemic, we are in an active phase still.

“We know that this winter could quite possibly be bumpy at times and we know that other respiratory viruses such as flu and RSV are highly likely to make their returns.”

Could there be another lockdown?

Mr Johsnon is reportedly “dead set” on avoiding another lockdown this winter, with No 10 insisting restrictions will only be enforced as a “last resort”.

Ministers will instead focus on vaccines as the “first line of defence” against coronavirus, supported by testing, public health advice and a new variant surveillance system.

The PM is expected to tell the country on Tuesday (14 September) that “this is the new normal - we need to learn to live with Covid”, according to a senior government source quoted by The Daily Telegraph.

Health officials have argued that Covid-related deaths and hospital admissions have remained relatively stable over the past month, with evidence suggesting the vaccines have been highly effective in preventing serious illness.

It is thought that wearing face masks in public places could be reintroduced, along with work-from-home advice if cases increase.

However, other measures, including requiring vaccine passports for attending nightclubs or other crowded venues, have now been scrapped.

It is also expected that the government will announce it is repealing a swathe of powers taken through the Coronavirus Act which are no longer considered necessary, such as measures to close down sectors of the economy, apply restrictions to events and gatherings and powers to detain infectious people.

Although some measures will be retained, including sick pay from day one for people who are self-isolating, powers to direct schools to remain open if they close against government guidance, and helping the NHS attain the emergency resources it needs.

It will also remain a legal requirement for people to self-isolate if they test positive for the disease.

Mr Javid will set out the details when he unveils the government’s winter Covid plan for England in a Commons statement on Tuesday afternoon.

The PM has then been scheduled to lead a Downing Street news conference, although it is unclear whether he will still do so following the death of his mother, Charlotte Johnson Wahl, on Monday (13 September).

This article originally appeared on our sister site, NationalWorld.