Covid-19: Flu and autumn booster jabs brought forward as NHS warns of new variant

The new Covid variant is known as BA.2.86  - but is not yet classified as a variant of concern.

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Covid-19 booster and fluvaccines have been brought forward in the UK following the emergence of a new Covid variant. According to NHSofficials, the new variant, known as BA.2.86, came to light on August 18 and is the most concerning since the arrival of Omicron.

Scientists say that though the variant has mutated, it has not been classed as a "variant of concern". Vaccinations and booster jabs aimed at care home residents and those who are immunocompromised will now start on September 11 rather than the initial October date.

This group will be followed by carers, pregnant women, social care personnel, and individuals aged 65 and above. Dame Jenny Harries, UK Health Security Agency chief executive, said: "As we continue to live with COVID-19, we expect to see new variants emerge.

"Thanks to the success of our vaccine programme, we have built strong, broad immune defences against new variants throughout the population. However, some people remain more vulnerable to severe illness from COVID-19."

Dame Jenny acknowledged the complexity of estimating the potential impact of BA.2.86, citing limited available data. She added: “As is the case with all emerging and circulating COVID-19 variants, both within the UK and on a global scale, we will continue to closely monitor BA.2.86 and provide guidance to the government and the public as our understanding grows.”

The NHS said it will work swiftly "to ensure as many eligible people as possible are vaccinated by the end of October".

Steve Russell, Director of Vaccinations and Screening at the NHS, said: "While we know that flu and COVID usually hit hardest in December and January, the new COVID variant presents a greater risk now, which is why we will be ensuring as many people as possible are vaccinated against COVID sooner."

A nurse prepares a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.A nurse prepares a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
A nurse prepares a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Health minister Maria Caulfield said the move "makes sense", adding: "As our world-leading scientists gather more information on the BA.2.86 variant, it makes sense to bring forward the vaccination programme."

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