Covid booster vaccine: Everyone over age of 50 to be offered Covid booster and flu jab this autumn

All eligible groups are being encouraged to take up the vaccine when it is offered

Everyone over the age of 50 will be offered a Covid-19 booster and flu jab this autumn, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said.

This announcement is a change from previous guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which recommended that those older than 65 should be offered the jabs.

All eligible groups are being encouraged to take up the vaccine when it is offered

The decision comes after the committee considered the spread of the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants, as well as the benefits of combining the booster rollout with the flu vaccine rollout.

Those who will be eligible for a further dose also include residents in a care home for older adults and staff, frontline health and social care workers and those aged five to 49 in a clinical risk group, including pregnant women.

The jab will also be offered to those aged five to 49 who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression, and those aged 16 to 49 who are carers.

Experts hope that the expansion will provide necessary protection to those at higher risk of severe illness and keep greater numbers of people out of hospital.

All eligible groups are being encouraged to take up the vaccine when it is offered even if they have had a spring booster, as long as it has been at least three months since their last vaccination.

The UK has also recently become the first country to approve a dual vaccine which tackles both the original Covid virus and the newer Omicron variant.

The upgraded vaccine should be available as an autumn booster and give better protection against variants.

Moderna said it could supply doses in the next few weeks, but exactly who will get them has yet to be announced.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will also again be offering the free flu vaccine to additional groups once the most vulnerable have been offered the jab.

Vulnerable groups include previously announced pre-school and primary school children, those aged 65 years and over, and those in clinical risk groups.

The additional groups set to be offered the flu jab in England will be all adults aged 50 to 64 years and secondary school children in years 7, 8 and 9, who will be offered the vaccine in order of school year.

The NHS is set to announce when and how eligible groups will be able to book an appointment for their autumn coronavirus booster and free flu jab in due course.

‘The Covid-19 boosters are highly effective at increasing immunity’

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.

“It is also important that everyone eligible for the Covid-19 booster gets the jab when invited, including pregnant women, who are among those at higher risk.

“Having Covid-19 during pregnancy can lead to complications.

“Getting the vaccine, including a booster, offers the best possible protection for you and your baby.”

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman 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.”