All over-65 should be offered a Covid booster jab this autumn, the Government’s scientific advisers said today.
Health chiefs called for around 25million care home residents and staff, frontline NHS workers and younger vulnerable adults to also be offered top-ups.
It means millions of Britons will have had a fifth vaccine by next winter, if ministers accept the recommendations.
NHS bosses have been told to ensure the health service is ‘ready to deploy’ as soon as the immunity-boosting drive begins.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s (JCVI) eligibility list, which could still change before the programme eventually kicks off in September, is very similar to that for the annual flu vaccine.
Britain’s historic inoculation campaign, which began in December 2020 — just nine months after Covid was declared a pandemic, has drastically blunted the threat of the virus and saved tens of thousands of lives.
Experts say the milder nature of Omicron and the repeated waves of infection have also weakened the virus, making it no more lethal than flu.
All over-65 should be offered a Covid booster jab this autumn, the Government’s scientific advisers said today. Health chiefs called for care home residents and staff, frontline NHS workers and younger vulnerable adults to also be offered top-ups
Latest UK Health Security Agency dashboard data shows 92.7 per cent of over-12s have had at least one Covid vaccine, while 86.7 per cent are double-jabbed and 68.6 per cent have been boosted
Official figures show 142.6million doses of Covid vaccine have been dished out in the UK since December 2020. In the busiest day of Britain’s vaccination campaign, on December 21 2021, more than 1million doses were dished out, as people across the UK were urged to come forward for booster doses amid the Omicron surge
Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of Covid vaccination on the JCVI, said: ‘Last year’s autumn booster vaccination programme provided excellent protection against severe Covid, including against the Omicron variant.
‘We have provided interim advice on an autumn booster programme for 2022 so that the NHS and care homes are able to start the necessary operational planning, to enable high levels of protection for more vulnerable individuals and frontline healthcare staff over next winter.
Covid wave continues to decline across England, figures show
Covid cases continued to fall last week, official figures show.
UK Health Security Agency figures show cases fell in all age groups and regions.
The biggest drop-off was seen among the over-80s, who are most at risk from the virus.
It comes after Office for National Statistics last week confirmed the latest wave is continuing to collapse.
The ONS estimated 1.2million, or one in 45 people, were carrying the virus on any given day in the week to May 7, down a quarter on the previous week.
It marked the fifth week in a row that its weekly infection survey — now the best barometre of the outbreak — has reported a week-on-week fall in cases, despite no Covid restrictions being in place.
The Government is relying on the study, based on swabs of 120,000 random people, to track the virus now that free testing has been axed for the vast majority of Britons.
‘As we continue to review the scientific data, further updates to this advice will follow.’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘We welcome the interim advice from the JCVI for an Autumn Covid booster programme and will consider their final recommendations later this year.
‘We have asked the NHS in England to begin preparations to ensure they are ready to deploy Covid vaccines to those eligible.’
Heath bosses are yet to decide which vaccine will be used.
But Britons have been given Pfizer or a half dose of Moderna in previous booster rollouts.
Ministers have made no secret of plans for an annual Covid vaccination programme, which could cost in the region of £600million.
It is expected that vaccines could eventually be rolled out every year in a similar way to the flu jabs, which Britons are invited for every September.
SAGE scientists have also backed the strategy, insisting it will likely become part of the coronavirus’ gradual transition to becoming endemic.
More than 142million vaccines have already been dished out since Margaret Keenan became the first person in the world to get one outside of a clinical trial.
The 92-year-old grandmother, from Coventry, received her fourth dose as part of the spring top-up programme last month.
Over-75s, care home residents and patients with weak immune systems were invited for vaccines when the spring roll-out opened in March.
These groups are prioritised as they are most vulnerable to becoming severely unwell with the virus and their immunity wanes fastest.
Professor Jonathan Ball, a molecular virologist at the University of Nottingham, said the autumn booster scheme ‘seems like a sensible approach’.
‘We know that immunity to Covid following vaccination or indeed infection contracts over time.
‘So giving those individuals most at risk from developing severe Covid a boost just before virus circulation is likely to pick up during autumn and winter months seems sensible.
‘The exact timing will be important, as you don’t want to wait until virus circulation has already started to increase.
‘Although hopefully those most at risk have already had their spring booster, which will be standing them in good stead.’