Covid: Booster jabs for over 50s set to be unveiled by ministers
It is expected all over 50s will be offered a third jab – starting with the over 70s and the most vulnerable
The Government is to set out plans for Covid booster jabs as ministers unveil their blueprint for “living with the virus” through the winter.
It is expected all over 50s will be offered a third jab – starting with the over 70s and the most vulnerable.
The shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will be administered at least six months after the second dose amid concerns the protection it gives to older people fades over time.
Ministers believe it will help ensure the NHS is not overwhelmed by new cases of the disease as it moves into the autumn and winter.
However, it has been criticised by some scientists, who argue the priority now should be to get the jab to those countries which have received only scant quantities of the vaccine.
Earlier, Downing Street confirmed ministers had received the final advice on the issue from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
Health Secretary Sajid Javid will set out the details when he unveils the Government’s winter Covid plan for England in a Commons statement on Tuesday.
Boris Johnson has been scheduled to then lead a Downing Street news conference – although it is unclear whether he will still do so following the death on Monday of his mother, Charlotte Johnson Wahl.
The Prime Minister remains determined to avoid another lockdown, with Downing Street insisting it will only be considered as a “last resort”.
Instead, ministers will focus on vaccines as the “first line of defence” supported by testing, public health advice and a new variant surveillance system.
Officials argue deaths and hospital admissions have remained relatively stable over the past month as evidence suggests the vaccines have been highly effective in preventing serious illness.
Ahead of the announcement, Mr Johnson said: “The pandemic is far from over, but thanks to our phenomenal vaccine programme, new treatments and testing we are able to live with the virus without significant restrictions on our freedoms.
“I will set out a clear plan for the autumn and winter, when the virus has a natural advantage, to protect the gains we have made.”
It is thought ministers will retain the options of a return to wearing face masks in public places and restoring work-from-home advice if cases take off again.
However, other measures – such as requiring vaccine passports for people attending nightclubs or other crowded venues – have already been shelved.
It is expected the Government will announce it is repealing a swathe of powers taken through the Coronavirus Act which are no longer considered necessary.
They include measures to close down sectors of the economy, apply restrictions to events and gatherings and powers to detain infectious people.
Some measures will be retained – including sick pay from day one for people who are self-isolating, powers to direct schools to remain open if they close against Government guidance, and helping the NHS attain the emergency resources it needs.
It will remain a legal requirement for people to self-isolate if they test positive for the disease.
The move comes after the Government announced on Monday that the Pfizer/ BioNTech vaccine would be offered to 12 to 15-year olds in England, following advice from the chief medical officers of the four devolved nations of the UK.
The JCVI had previously advised against the step, saying the medical benefits were only marginal.
However, in their advice the medical officers stressed the impact of missed schooling due to Covid on children’s education and mental wellbeing.
In a Commons statement, the Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said parental consent would be sought before the vaccine was administered.
In the “rare event” that a parent declined but the child wanted the jab anyway, there would be a procedure to enable them to receive it if they were deemed “competent”.