COVID-19: Autumn booster and flu jab to be extended to over 50s to reduce hospital admissions | UK News

A COVID booster will be offered to all over 50s in the autumn as part of plans to increase protection from respiratory illnesses and “keep greater numbers of people out of hospital”.

Scientific advisers on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) recommended the extra dose is offered ahead of the winter, in guidance published on Friday.

Care home residents and staff and front-line health and social care workers are also eligible.

The jabs are also being recommended for people aged between five and 49 who are in clinical risk groups, including pregnant women, and household contacts of people with immunosuppression.

Carers aged 16 to 49 are also being offered the booster and flu jab.

The JCVI had previously recommended a COVID vaccine should be given to over 65s in May.

But the independent advisory body has now revised its guidance after considering the BA.4 and BA.5 waves of the virus.

The recommendation was published as it was revealed the number of people testing positive for COVID in the UK has surged by 29% to almost 3.5million.

This means more than one in 20 people across the nation is infected, according to the latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics.

The JCVI said in a statement on Friday: “The final eligible groups are broader than those announced in the JCVI’s interim advice in May.

“The considered the recent epidemiology of the BA.4 and BA.5 waves, as well as the benefits of aligning the COVID-19 program with the flu vaccine rollout, concluding that expanding the offer committee would provide necessary protection to those at higher risk of severe illness and keep greater numbers of people out of hospital.”

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NHS waiting times hit winter high

Free flu jabs will also be offered in England to adults aged between 50 and 64 and secondary school children in years seven, eight and nine, starting with the youngest first – but only after the most vulnerable have been offered the jab.

An earlier announcement outlined the most vulnerable as pre-school and primary school children, over 65s and people in clinical risk groups.

JCVI deputy chair, Professor Anthony Harnden, said: “We have provided our final recommendations for the autumn program 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 hospitalizations and deaths over the winter.”

The guidance has been published as the World Health Organization warned COVID was becoming “too clever” and “breaking past immune defences”.

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Pressure on NHS getting worse

NHS data for June was revealed to be worse than any winter crisis on recordwith patients facing 12-hour trolley waits.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the government had accepted the JCVI’s independent advice.

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“NHS staff and volunteers provided an outstanding service to the public through the biggest and fastest vaccination rollout in England’s history, which saved countless lives and allowed us to live with this virus without restrictions on our freedom,” Mr Barclay said.

“Viruses spread more easily in the colder seasons with people socializing 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.”

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