A fourth Covid vaccine dose will be offered to vulnerable citizens after it was announced that coronavirus restrictions in England were set to be removed.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed that some at-risk groups, including over 75s, will be offered the additional jabs this spring in England.
Mr Javid also later suggested that a fourth autumn dose could be rolled out to the wider population.
Who is eligible for a fourth Covid vaccine dose?
Those over 75s, older people in care homes and those over the age of 12 who are immunosuppressed will be offered the fourth dose.
The announcement relates to those in England, however the respective governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to follow suit.
Mr Javid said that the offer of a fourth dose is to help those who are at highest risk of serious illness when contracting coronavirus.
It comes after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) made the recommendation in UK-wide published advice.
When will a fourth Covid vaccine dose be offered?
Those in the groups listed above will be able to receive their fourth dose at least six months after their last jab.
A 50mcg Moderna or 30mcg Pfizer/BioNTech shot will be used as part of the spring programme.
How do you book an appointment for a fourth dose?
In england, appointments will be available to book or rearrange through the NHS website, although appointments for the fourth vaccination are not yet live.
To use the booking system, you will need to be registered with a GP in England.
The appointment slots will open up once there is confirmation on what day the spring vaccination campaign begins.
What did the JCVI say?
Alongside the advice that a fourth spring dose be offered to these key groups of the population, the JCVI also added that older people and those at risk may be expected to get another jab in the autumn.
The advice shows that the effectiveness of the vaccines wane over time and Covis surges are expected in winter months, meaning that an additional jab will allow those at risk to top up their protection.
While the spring jab is has only been offered to over 75s, older people in care homes and people who are immunosuppressed, the autumn campaign is expected to include more groups of at-risk individuals.
It has not yet been confirmed if all of those who are eligible for a flu jab will be included in the autumn programme.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, chairman of Covid-19 vaccination on the JCVI, said: “Last year’s booster vaccination programme has so far provided excellent protection against severe Covid-19.
“To maintain high levels of protection for the most vulnerable individuals in the population, an extra spring dose of vaccine is advised ahead of an expected autumn booster programme later this year.
“The JCVI will continue its rolling review of the vaccination programme and the epidemiological situation, particularly in relation to the timing and value of doses for less vulnerable older adults and those in clinical risk groups ahead of autumn 2022.”
What did Sajid Javid say?
Mr Javid placed emphasis of the success of the rollout of the vaccination programme in the UK, while adding that the progress must be built upon.
He said: “Thanks to our Covid-19 vaccination rollout, we are already the freest country in Europe.
“It has saved countless lives, reduced pressure on the NHS and is allowing us to learn to live with the virus.
“Today I have accepted the advice from the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to offer, from spring, an additional Covid-19 booster jab to people aged 75 years and over, residents in care homes for older adults, and people aged 12 years and over who are immunosuppressed.”
The Health Secretary said that all four nations of the UK will follow the advice, adding: “We know immunity to Covid-19 begins to wane over time.
“That’s why we’re offering a spring booster to those people at higher risk of serious Covid-19 to make sure they maintain a high level of protection. It’s important that everyone gets their top-up jabs as soon as they’re eligible.”
Speaking to ITV’s Peston programme, Mr Javid suggested that a fourth dose could become available to the wider population.
He said: “When it comes to vaccinations I think we rightly take the advice of our clinicians.
“There’s a committee, it’s called the JCVI and we listen very carefully to what they’ve got to say.
“They look at the data very, very carefully and their latest advice as you say is that there should be a second boost – or let’s call it a fourth dose – but to focus on those over 75, those in care homes, those who are immunosuppressed.
“Now we will start that by the end of this month, that’s what we’ve said and we’re completely on track for that. But we listen to their advice all the time, should they come forward…”
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