UK to roll out booster jabs for over-50s in Covid winter plan
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UK to roll out booster jabs for over-50s in Covid winter plan

The British government will be accepting an expert panel’s recommendation and begin the rollout of booster vaccine shots across England for over-50s from next week.

The UK Parliament was informed this week that the National Health Service (NHS) in England is preparing for the rollout following the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation's (JCVI) recommendation earlier. Wales has also accepted the JCVI advice, with other devolved regions of the UK – Scotland and Northern Ireland – also expected to follow.

“So that’s going to mean we’re going to be building even higher walls of immunisation of vaccine protection in this country,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he unveiled his winter strategy of dealing with the pandemic.

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A range of “Plan B” measures will be kept under review to help control transmission of the deadly virus while minimising economic and social damage. These include introducing mandatory vaccine-only Covid status certification or so-called Covid pass in certain, riskier settings of large gatherings and events and legally mandating face coverings in certain settings, such as public transport and shops. Under Plan B, if the threat of the deadly virus worsens, the government could also consider asking people to work from home again if necessary.

In essence, the UK's winter plan is "to keep going" with measures already underway unless a contingency Plan B is required at a later stage.

The UK's expert advisory panel on vaccines recommended that a third booster dose of a Covid-19 vaccine would be beneficial for people aged over 50 and frontline healthcare workers to boost their protection against the deadly virus over the winter months.

The JCVI recommendation notes that six months after a second Covid vaccine dose is the optimum timing to boost immunity with another dose, with the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines among those ideal for use as a third jab.

"Getting a dose too early may mean they do not need it as they still have a high level of protection, and as we've seen with the gap between the first and second dose, you don't want to have it too early," JCVI Chair Professor Wei Shen Lim said.

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He also indicated a recurrent booster every six months may not be needed but it is too early to be sure about that.

It comes as the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) also confirmed this week that ministers have accepted the advice of the four UK chief medical officers (CMOs), with the NHS now preparing to deliver a schools-based vaccination programme. This will be based on what the NHS says is their "successful model" used for vaccinations including for HPV and Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP), supported by general practitioners (GPs) and community pharmacies.

Under the expanded programme, schoolchildren aged between 12 and 15 will be offered a first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine starting next week.

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