The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised the government to offer booster vaccines to all over-18s, as the Omicron variant hits the UK.
While it was largely expected that all adults would be offered the third jab, the advisory body has urged the boosters to be given as part of a “sensible strategy”.
‘NHS to prepare for much greater capacity’
Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the JCVI, told Radio 4’s Broadcasting House: “Both by extending the age range and by reducing the interval between the second dose and the booster dose, will be a sensible strategy.”
Professor Harnden added: “I think there’s a very good, strong argument for raising the antibody level in the whole of the community.”
And, when pushed on whether people aged 18 and over would be invited to get the booster sooner, he added: “Those adults 18 plus will have an offer of a booster earlier than we had previously envisaged.”
The JCVI advises the Government on immunisation and has been tasked with reviewing whether boosters should be extended to all over-18s.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he expects to receive the new advice “imminently”, following an increase in government guidelines to wear face masks and exercise social distancing in shops and on public transport.
Mr Javid also told The Andrew Marr Show on the BBC that he has “asked the NHS to prepare for much greater capacity in our vaccination programme”.
The vaccine advisory board will now consider if providing a second dose of the vaccine to 12 to 15-year-olds should also be a priority, and whether the waiting time before a booster jab could be reduced.
The decisions on the booster programme come amid concerns over the impact of winter pressures on the NHS, as well as the identification of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant.
How do I book my booster jab?
In England, people should receive a letter or a text inviting them to book their booster vaccine dose when they are eligible.
Once you have been invited to book, you can do so online via the NHS national booking system.
You can book your booster jab online if you have been contacted by the NHS and you are either:
- aged 50 and over
- aged 16 and over with a health condition that puts you at high risk from Covid-19
If you have had a positive Covid-19 test, you will need to wait four weeks before booking your booster from the date you had the test.
People can also book by calling 119 or get vaccinated at hundreds of walk-in sites across England without an appointment. Those eligible can use the NHS online walk-in finder to find their closest site.
If you are in Scotland, the NHS inform website features a handy tool which explains how you will be invited for your booster vaccination.
In Wales, you will be contacted by your health board when it is your turn to book your jab. You should not contact your GP to ask about appointments.
In Northern Ireland, the booster programme is underway with residents and staff in care homes being offered a dose, while GPs will be inviting their older patients in first to receive their booster. You should wait until you are contacted to book an appointment.
Can I go to a walk-in centre?
Covid-19 booster jabs are now available at walk-in vaccinations centres across England without the need for appointment.
From 1 November, anyone who is eligible for a booster, and had their second dose of a coronavirus vaccine at least six months ago, can now turn up at one of hundreds of jab sites for their top-up.