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Increased COVID-19 variant risk pushes vaccine programmes forward

Millions of eligible people are to be offered a COVID-19 vaccine from 11 September, in line with the latest expert guidance. The push comes amidst increased concerns of new covid variants.

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the UK Health Security Agency (UKSA) have announced that flu and covid vaccinations will be brought forward due to concerns raised about the new BS.2.86 variant. The government are pushing for pre-emptive measures to tackle the expected rise in cases this winter.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS England Medical Director, said: Vaccinations are our best defence against flu and COVID-19 ahead of what could be a very challenging winter, and with the potential for this new covid variant to increase the risk of infection, we are following the latest expert guidance and bringing the covid vaccination programme forward, with people able to get their flu vaccine at the same time to maximise protection.’

The adult covid and flu vaccination programmes had been due to start in October to maximise protection over the winter months, but under the new guidance, those most at risk including adult care home residents will be vaccinated from 11 September.

Those who are most at risk, including those who are immunosuppressed, as well as carers, pregnant women and heath and social care staff will be among the groups to be offered the covid jab first.

Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency, Dame Jenny Harries said: ‘As we continue to live with COVID-19 we expect to see new variants emerge.

‘Thanks to the success of our vaccine programme, we have built strong, broad immune defences against new variants throughout the population. However, some people remain more vulnerable to severe illness from COVID-19. This precautionary measure to bring forward the autumn programme will ensure these people have protection against any potential wave this winter.