Warning of major change in UK Covid vaccines


The universal Covid-19 vaccination program is coming to an end this year, officials said as they urged people to take up the shot offer while they still have a chance.

Meanwhile, healthy adults under age 50 who did not take up the booster offer were given just two and a half weeks to take up the offer before they are no longer eligible.

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Despite officials saying that the jab offer is “evergreen”, vaccination experts have advised that the universal offer should move “toward a more targeted offer during vaccination campaigns”.

This means that only certain people are eligible for the primary vaccination course – the first and second shots – at certain times of the year.

At the moment, anyone who was five years old or over on 31 August 2022 can still take their basic course at drop-in centers or by using the NHS’s national booking service.

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Unincentives are being urged to get their vaccine “before supply closes”.

People eligible for their first shots during the new targeted program include: residents and employees of care homes; frontline health and social workers; adults over 50; people who are clinically at risk; carers and people living in a home where someone has a weakened immune system.

Officials have stressed that if people are newly deemed to be at clinical risk, they can still be vaccinated.

No date has been set for the end of the universal program, but it will happen sometime in 2023.

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The NHS in England said until the universal program expires it will continue to run a “smaller scale” vaccine offering from mid-February to ensure those eligible for the first and second doses can still get their shots.

Meanwhile, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) said the first booster offer for healthy adults ages 16 to 49 should close when the fall booster program closes.

In England, the program ends on February 12.

I would encourage anyone who has not yet had their Covid booster to book an appointment in the coming weeks and make the most of the range available

Steve Russell, Director of Vaccinations and Screening at NHS England

The experts, who advise the government on vaccination policy, said the decision was made “as the transition continues from pandemic relief to pandemic recovery”.

It said there were high acceptance rates for the first booster – most people’s third jab – when it was first offered in December 2021.

But since then, further take-up has “been low at less than 0.1% per week since April 2022 among all eligible people under 50”.

Similarly, uptake of the basic vaccination – the first two jabs – has “stabilized” in recent months in all age groups, according to the JCVI.

Commenting on the closure of the booster program, Steve Russell, director of vaccinations and screening at NHS England, said: “Over the past two years, the NHS Covid vaccination program has delivered nearly 145 million doses and as a result the public has widespread protection from Covid-19. 19 and its variants – a remarkable achievement.

“Following the government’s decision to accept JCVI’s advice today, I would encourage anyone who has not yet had their Covid booster to book an appointment in the coming weeks and make the most of the range available .

“Once the NHS receives updated guidance for the next phase of the vaccination programme, our fantastic NHS staff will ensure that the vaccine is as accessible and easy for those who qualify as it was with any of the previous campaigns.”

Meanwhile, the JCVI has said another round of booster shots will be needed in the fall for those most at risk.

It has given interim advice to the government to prepare for the next round of booster shots later this year.

It said a smaller group of people should also receive a spring booster, including the elderly and those with suppressed immune systems, with details to be set out shortly.

Officials have also been told they may need an “emergency vaccine response” if a new variant emerges.

It also called for research into the “optimal timing for booster campaigns”.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of Covid-19 vaccination at the JCVI, said: “The Covid-19 vaccination program continues to reduce serious illness in the population while helping to protect the NHS.

“We have therefore advised planning for further booster vaccinations for individuals at higher risk of serious illness through an autumn booster program later this year.

“We will also provide final guidance on a spring stimulus program for those most at risk very soon.”


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