Millions of vulnerable people are to be offered a COVID-19 booster vaccine from next week, under the Government’s winter plans to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
The programme will be rolled out to the same priority groups as previously. This means care home residents, health and social care workers, people aged over 50, those aged 16 to 49 years with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19, adult carers, and adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals will be prioritised.
‘Our vaccine roll-out has been phenomenal. It’s vital that we do everything we can to prolong the protection our vaccines offer, particularly for those most vulnerable to COVID-19 as we head into the autumn and winter months. I have today accepted the advice from the independent experts at the JCVI to offer a booster vaccine to those most at risk,’ said Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid.
‘The booster programme will start next week thanks to the extensive preparations the NHS has already made to ensure booster jabs can be rolled out as quickly as possible.’
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In England, the number of deaths and hospitalisations has remained relatively stable over the last month. The vaccines are highly effective, with PHE analysis suggesting that two doses led to the prevention of 24,702,000 infections and 112,300 deaths, up to the 27 August.
‘The NHS is heading into an incredibly challenging winter: GPs and hospital doctors are already under immense pressure having to contend with Covid-19 and the likely onslaught of flu, while services are overstretched with trying to treat the huge backlogs of care, with patients suffering on long waiting lists for the treatment they need,’ said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair.
‘It’s only right that Government has decided to press ahead with implementing a booster vaccine programme to control the spread of Covid, and we’re pleased to see that healthcare workers are included in that. However, vaccination will never offer 100% protection and with high rates of infection, we must act now and introduce other measures if we’re to keep the health service afloat this winter.’
The move will ensure the protection vaccines provide for those most at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 will be maintained over the winter months. Data published by ONS yesterday shows people who have not been vaccinated account for around 99% of all deaths involving COVID-19 in England in the first half of this year.
Read more: Four in five people aged 16 and over vaccinated with both doses
‘These measures will be key to getting us through the knife-edge winter we all fear. But nursing staff will be concerned at issues not referenced today. With more Covid-19 vaccinations to deliver as well as the flu programme, the shortages in the nursing workforce will be increasingly exposed. Neglecting to mention these issues does not mean they will go away,’ said RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen.
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‘The COVID-19 and flu vaccination programme is absolutely part of the package to support those staff and minimise the winter pressures they are facing and any measures which reduce the severity and impact of either illness will be supported. But health and care staff are not an inexhaustible resource. The last year has shown that, without adequate support and protection, more staff are becoming ill and unable to work.’