UK to roll out extra shot for vulnerable people over 75

A service member vaccinates a woman at a mass COVID-19 vaccination center at the Pentwyn Leisure Center February 3, 2021 in Cardiff, Wales.

Matthew Horwood | News Getty Images | Getty Images

The UK will roll out an additional Covid shot for the elderly and its clinically vulnerable population, the country’s vaccine regulator announced on Monday.

Adults over 75 living in nursing homes and those over 12 who are immunocompromised will receive an extra dose of Covid vaccine in the spring as a “precautionary strategy for 2022”, according to a press release from the UK Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunizations.

People over the age of 18 will be offered the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna Covid vaccine as a spring dose, while children aged 12 to 18 will only be offered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

An additional booster will be given 6 months after the last dose of an eligible person, according to the JCVI.

For older people in the UK, this will be the fourth dose of the vaccine they have been offered. For people with severely weakened immune systems, this would be the fifth vaccine proposed. The bulk of the population offered three vaccinations, two vaccinations and one revaccination.

The regulator noted in a press release on Monday that “significant uncertainty remains about the likelihood, timing and severity of any potential future wave of Covid-19 in the UK.”

“There may be a transitional period of several years before a stable pattern is established, such as a regular seasonal wave of infection,” the JCVI said in a statement.

Many of the oldest and most vulnerable British adults received their most recent Covid vaccine in September or October. The JCVI noted that the immunity this group received from the booster shot could be significantly reduced before the fall, when it plans to roll out a wider booster program.

Details of the autumn program have not yet been disclosed.

Of the eligible population in the UK – those aged 12 years and over – 85% were fully immunized with two doses of the Covid vaccine and two-thirds were boosted.

The JCVI announcement comes as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is preparing to announce the lifting of all remaining Covid restrictions in England, drawing sharp criticism from health professionals.

Many of the restrictions in England have already been lifted, but some – such as the legal requirement to self-isolate after testing positive for the virus – currently remain in place.

Johnson is expected to announce on Monday that access to free Covid tests will be cut.

There were 25,696 new cases of coronavirus in the UK on Sunday, with about 508 per 100,000 people currently infected with the virus. Preliminary figures show 74 people have died from Covid in the UK.

“Thanks to the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine, we are already the freest country in Europe,” UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said on Monday. “It has saved countless lives, reduced the burden on [National Health Service] and allows us to learn to live with the virus.”

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