Covid booster rollout to open up to over-40s to beat winter wave

CORONAVIRUS booster vaccines are set to be rolled out to Brits over 40 in order to beat a winter wave of the bug, it has been announced.

At present anyone over the age of 50 is able to have their booster, as long as it's been six months after their second dose of the jab.

The government today announced that people under-50 will be able to come forward for their booster – starting with those in their 40s.

The NHS booking service still states that only those over the age of 50 can get their boosters and it's not yet clear when people in their 40s will be able to schedule their top up appointment.

But it's thought that as soon as it has been six months since your second dose, then you will be able to come forward.

It comes as results from a real world study found that Pfizer/BioNTech booster jabs give over 90 per cent protection against symptomatic Covid in the over 50s.

The findings revealed that two weeks after receiving a booster dose, protection against symptomatic infection in adults aged 50 years and over was 93.1 per cent in those with AstraZeneca as their primary course and 94.0 per cent for those who had Pfizer-BioNTech.

It's these results that pushed the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to today announce that booster jabs will be given to all those over the age of 40.

Experts have hailed booster jabs for keeping Brits safe and have said they will also help keep infections down this winter.

Professor Neil Ferguson, scientific adviser to the government said the most vulnerable in society need to have their boosters to keep transmission rates low.

The Sun's Give Britain A Booster campaign is also urging people to get a third jab.

Around 12.6 million Brits have now had their booster vaccines, with the programme rumoured to end in January.

Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) Chief Executive, Dr June Raine welcomed the announcement.

She said it further strengthens our ability to ensure people are protected against Covid-19 and saves lives.

Dr Raine added: “Our safety monitoring to date shows that Covid-19 vaccines continue to have a positive safety profile for the majority of people.

"The vast majority of reactions which are reported relate to expected side effects such as injection site reactions and flu-like symptoms, as was seen in our initial assessment. Our proactive monitoring of the safety of booster doses does not raise any new concerns.

“We also welcome the recommendation for 16-17 year-olds to come forward and have a second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

"People can be reassured that when we gave approval for the Pfizer vaccine for those 16 years and over in December 2020, we had thoroughly reviewed all the clinical trial data."

Dr Raine said that the MHRA have continued to 'scrutinise' the data available as well as monitoring reactions in teens and adults.

She said: "We ensure all suspected reports are carefully followed up. The Expert Working Group of the Commission on Human Medicines has confirmed that reports of suspected myocarditis (heart inflammation) following Covid-19 vaccines are extremely rare and that the balance of risks and benefits overall remains favourable.”

Over the weekend Prof Ferguson told BBC 4's Today Programme: “I see no reason why we shouldn’t be rolling them out to younger age groups once we’ve got through the priority groups: over-fifties and the clinically vulnerable.

"Our modelling suggests that, yes, it could make quite a big difference to driving transmission down to low levels.”

The booster campaign was rolled out earlier this year after studies showed that those jabbed at the start of the pandemic would start to witness waning immunity.

It is critical that you come forward for your booster as soon as you become eligible

Around 80 per cent of Brits now have two coronavirus vaccines under their belts and the government has been urging those eligible to come forward for their booster doses.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at the UK Health Security Agency, said: “Our findings demonstrate the protection provided by the booster dose against symptomatic infection in those at highest risk from developing severe Covid-19.

"We know that in older age groups, protection from the first two vaccines is beginning to wear off, leaving millions that need extra protection as we head into winter.

"That is why it is critical that you come forward for your booster as soon as you become eligible so we can drive down hospitalisations and deaths over the winter.”

It was yesterday reported that Covid cases climbed by a fifth in just a week with 36,517 new positive infections having been recorded.

The death rate has dropped in the last day, from 157 to 63 fatalities being reported.

This time last week, there were 30,305 cases reported in the UK – marking a 20.5 per cent increase in yesterday's numbers.

However the number of fatalities has only increased slightly from last Sunday, from 62 to 63 fatalities – bringing the grim total to 142,898.

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