- The NHS will start inviting eligible Britons from next week, as long as they had a second dose six or more months ago
- Roughly 32 million more than 50, as well as frontline health and care workers, will be invited in order of priority
- The Pfizer jab will be offered at first, but doctors will use half the dose of Moderna if there is a supply problem.
A mass COVID booster vaccine campaign will be launched next week for millions of Britons in the race to survive the winter lockdown, it was announced today.
The government’s vaccine advisory panel finally signed off on the plans after weeks of deliberation, with the third dose now being recommended for nearly 32 million more than 50 as well as frontline health and care workers.
England’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, told a Downing Street press conference that the booster program would provide ‘very good’ immunity and help ‘keep a lid on’ the pandemic this winter.
The NHS will start inviting eligible Britons from next week. People are being invited to come forward only if they have had their second injection at least six months ago, in what officials called a ‘sweet spot’ for the booster.
The third dose will be given to the top nine priority groups who were first in line during the initial immunization programme, the elderly and vulnerable first line.
It took about four months to cover those clusters with the first dose earlier this year, but officials expect the booster plan to move faster now because the infrastructure and expertise is already in place.
Members of the Joint Committee on Immunization and Immunization (JCVI) approved the plans, based on mounting real-world data in Israel and elsewhere, as well as a major British study showing that vaccine-induced immunity could linger within months. decreases.
Eligible Britons will be given the Pfizer vaccine in the first place, regardless of the jab they were originally given. When there is a shortage of supplies, Moderna Vaccine will be offered as a booster, but only as a half-dose.
Officials said there is more evidence that mRNA vaccines were safe and effective when given as a third dose, which is why they are not recommending AstraZeneca. JCVI said Moderna is being given as a half-dose because lower doses are associated with fewer side effects and still produce a stronger immune response.
However, in the rare case that a person is allergic to the ingredients in Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, they will be offered the AstraZeneca jab, which still boosts immunity, as well as the other two do not.
The announcement will be a challenging winter for the NHS before it is widely accepted, which will have unusually low natural immunity to flu and other respiratory viruses due to more than a year of social restrictions.
Sajid Javid was cornered by the Tories today as he made it clear that another lockdown cannot be ruled out completely – admitting that ministers can only give Britons the ‘best possible chance’ of escaping the brutal sanctions .
The health secretary said the country should remain ‘alert’ as the disease is likely to increase in the coming months, given the cold, humid weather. In a statement to lawmakers, he stressed that vaccines can help ‘build up a defense’ against the disease, with boosters for over 50s and jabs for under-16s starting next week .
But Mr Javid was struck by the anger of the Conservatives in the Commons as he said the blueprint included a ‘Plan B’ to make masks mandatory, ‘in some settings’, working more from home and social distancing when the NHS was at risk .
Vaccine passports will be kept ‘safe’ and could be offered in England with a week’s notice, even though they originally won’t move beyond next month.
The above group will be the first to receive a dose of the COVID vaccine. UK vaccine advisers say the ‘sweet spot’ for the booster is about six months after the second dose is given. The booster shots are set to be rolled out in descending order from group one – elderly residents in care homes – to nine.
The slide above was shown at the Downing Street press briefing. It estimates that maximum protection from a second dose of the COVID vaccine lasts up to six months, based on real-world data from Israel.
The effectiveness of vaccines against hospitalization decreases slightly after more than 20 weeks in people 65 and older. JCVI said only a slight drop in absolute effectiveness was seen, but the risk of waiting and hoping in the winter was not worth it.
Booster shots will be rolled out for the groups in the order above, with the program working through age groups
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam told a Downing Street press conference that the program would provide ‘very good’ immunity and help ‘keep a lid on’ the pandemic this winter.