In England, people aged 75 and up, residents of care homes, and those with weakened immune systems can now book an extra booster shot against Covid.
It comes as official figures show that infection rates are rising across the board, including among the over-70s. The rollout is in response to vaccine advisers in the United Kingdom’s recommendation that more vaccines be given to the most vulnerable people. Spring supplements are already being distributed in Wales and Scotland.
This autumn, a larger booster program involving more people is expected. It comes as the UK sees an increase in Covid cases, with an estimated one in every 20 people infected, according to the most recent figures.
People with symptoms of the virus should “behave sensibly” according to Health Secretary Sajid Javid, but it is up to the individual to decide whether or not to take a test.
“I think we need to step back and think about how we learn to live with Covid and focus on our very best form of defence and that’s the vaccination programme,” he said.
While vaccines have been shown to provide adequate protection against severe disease, this protection diminishes over time. Experts believe that because many of the oldest received their final immunization in autumn 2021, their immunity is now deteriorating.
A second booster, to be given six months after the previous dose, will now be offered to:
Residents of a nursing home for the elderly aged 75 and up
individuals over the age of 12 who are immunocompromised or have weakened immune systems
The extra booster jab will be available to approximately five million people in the UK, with the first 600,000 people being invited this week.
Dr. Nikki Kanani, GP and deputy lead for the NHS’s vaccination program, urged everyone who was eligible to schedule their booster shots as soon as possible.
“With infections rising this is a really important opportunity for people who are eligible to come forward and get booked and get their spring booster.” she explained.
Adults who are eligible for the vaccine will be given the Moderna or Pfizer/BionNTech vaccine.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will be given to children aged 12 to 18.
The booster shots will be administered six months after the last dose of vaccine.
More than two-thirds of people over the age of 12 in the UK have received two Covid vaccines plus a single booster jab.
Everyone aged 16 and up, as well as at-risk children aged 12 to 15, can now receive a first booster dose.
Until now, however, only people with severely compromised immune systems were eligible for a fourth dose – three doses plus a booster. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has proposed that additional boosters be made available to a larger group of people in autumn.