A new Covid vaccination program has been launched as the UK prepares for an expected rise in infections over the coming winter months.
People aged 65 and over, care home residents and health and social care staff are among those eligible to receive a booster.
Updated forms of Covid vaccines will be used in the fall campaign. These produce higher levels of protection against the different strains of Omicron currently in circulation.
The booster rollout was billed by the government as a “precautionary measure” after the so-called Pirola variant, which is highly mutated, was recently detected in the UK.
Some 34 infections caused by the Omicron spin-off have been confirmed in England, but the true scale of the outbreak is likely much larger due to the limited number of Covid tests in the population.
Here’s everything you need about the fall rollout:
Who can receive a fall Covid booster?
The program is aimed at high-risk people, who may not have been vaccinated for several months. This includes:
- Residents of a retirement home for the elderly
- All adults aged 65 and over
- Frontline health and social care workers
- People aged 6 months to 64 years belonging to a clinical risk group
- Those who care for vulnerable people
- Families of people with weakened immune systems
When is the booster available?
Eligible people will be offered an appointment between September and December.
Residents of elderly care homes and those who are housebound are already being offered a booster shot.
Starting September 18, remaining groups will be convened, with low-risk individuals invited last.
The government recommends that people receive the vaccine at least 3 months after their last dose.
How do I book my Covid reminder?
The NHS will contact those who are eligible.
These groups will be able to book their vaccines from September 18 via the NHS website, the NHS app or by calling 119.
What vaccine will people get?
Vaccines made by Pfizer, Moderna and Sanofi will be offered in the fall program.
These are updated forms of vaccines used in previous campaigns and offer higher levels of protection against current Omicron strains.
As scientists cannot predict which variants will circulate this winter, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) has concluded that all updated vaccines can all be used in adults.
For a very small number of people, such as those allergic to certain ingredients used in vaccines, another vaccine product may be recommended.
Should I receive a Covid reminder?
The science certainly suggests so. Last year, those who received an autumn booster were 53% less likely to be admitted to hospital with Covid in the month after the vaccine, compared to those who did not receive a dose.
There is also uncertainty around the Pirola variant, also known as BA.2.86, and how it could affect the UK winter surge.
The analysis suggests there is “established international transmission” of the strain, which is highly mutated and could infect people more easily than previous variants.
If so, the UK could see a higher than expected rise in infections over the winter, leading to more hospitalizations in at-risk groups.
Scientists are still working to understand the impacts of Pirola, but all agree that being strengthened will increase protection against serious illness, hospitalization and death among vulnerable people.
Steve Russell, director of vaccinations and testing at NHS England, said: “Given concerns over new Covid variants, it is essential to adapt the program and deliver it to those most at risk, and I We therefore strongly urge all eligible people to come forward as soon as possible. as they can for that important protection during the colder months.
“NHS staff have been working hard to ensure services are ready to welcome patients at an earlier stage so they can get their protection as quickly as possible.”
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunization at the UK Health Security Agency, said: “Older people and those in clinical risk groups remain most at risk of serious illness from Covid.
“The vaccine continues to offer the best protection against severe illness and hospitalization from Covid, so be sure to get vaccinated when it is offered to you and encourage your eligible loved ones to do the same.
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