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Fourth COVID Dose to be Offered to all Aged 50 and Older

Adults aged 50 and older will be invited to have a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccination, as England currently finds itself in the midst of a third wave of coronavirus infections.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has published its final recommendations for this autumn's vaccination programme, which included giving an additional vaccination dose to the following groups:

  • All adults aged 50 years and older
  • Those aged 5- 49 years in a clinical risk group, including pregnant women
  • Household contacts of people with immunosuppression aged 5- 49 years
  • Carers aged 16- 49 years
  • Residents in a care home for older adults and staff working in care homes for older adults
  • Frontline health and social care workers

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the JCVI, said: "We have provided our final recommendations for the autumn programme to ensure the NHS and wider health system has time to plan a vaccine rollout well ahead of the winter season.

"The COVID-19 boosters are highly effective at increasing immunity and, by offering a further dose to those at higher risk of severe illness this autumn, we hope to significantly reduce the risk of hospitalisations and deaths over the winter."

Expanding Eligibility for Free Flu Jabs

Additionally, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will be expanding the eligibility for free flu vaccines to more people once the more vulnerable have received their dose. The most vulnerable include pre-school and primary school children, those aged 65 and older, and those in clinical risk groups. Additional groups to be offered the jab include all adults aged 50-64 and secondary school children in years 7, 8, and 9, who will be offered the flu shot in order of school year.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at UKHSA, said: "Widening the eligibility for the flu vaccine will help reduce the number of people getting seriously ill and ease pressures on the NHS, particularly during the busy winter period."

Recent Sharp Rise in COVID-19 Infections

Responding to news that all over-50s will be offered COVID-19 booster and flu jabs this autumn, the Interim Deputy Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Miriam Deakin, said: "It’s helpful to have this clarity over these very important vaccination programmes.

"The recent sharp rises in COVID-19 infections and hospital admissions underline the continuing threat posed by the virus and maintaining the wider eligibility for a free flu vaccine is a further sensible precaution, reducing the risk of serious illness and consequent additional pressures on the NHS.

"It will be important for integrated care systems to consider how they can most effectively reach people who are vaccine hesitant."

Recently appointed Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said consideration of the autumn weather prompted the move to expand who should get a fourth dose: "Viruses spread more easily in the colder seasons with people socialising inside, so the risk of getting COVID is higher. It is absolutely vital the most vulnerable groups receive a booster vaccine to strengthen their immunity against serious disease over winter to protect themselves and reduce pressure on the NHS."

The programme is expected to kick off in early autumn.

Lead Image Credit: E+ / Getty Images