Covid: Millions more vulnerable people could be given third booster coronavirus vaccine from September

A care home group where a quarter of residents died of Covid says news of a third booster jab are very welcome, ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan reports

Millions of people who are more vulnerable to coronavirus may be offered a third booster vaccine to give them prolonged protection against Covid-19 from September.

Experts advising the government hope that booster jabs will ensure the protection these groups of people have from the first and second doses is maintained ahead of winter and against new variants.

It comes after an Oxford University study showed that giving people a third dose more than six months after their second led to a substantial rise in antibodies and increased the body’s T-cell ability to fight coronavirus, including its variants.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation's (JCVI) interim advice is that the government should offer the booster vaccines to at risk people in two stages from September alongside the annual flu vaccination programme.

The final advice will be published before September after more data is analysed.

How the proposed third booster jab rollout might work:

In stage one of the JCVI's proposal, the following people should be offered a third booster jab and the annual flu jab from September 2021:

  • adults aged 16 years and over who are immunosuppressed

  • those living in residential care homes for older adults

  • all adults aged 70 years or over

  • adults aged 16 years and over who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable

  • frontline health and social care workers.

In the second stage, the following groups should then be offered the booster jab with the flu jab:

  • all adults aged 50 years and over

  • all adults aged 16 – 49 years who are in an influenza or Covid-19 at-risk group as outlined in the Green Book

  • Adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals

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It is not yet known whether people will be offered the same vaccine or a different one, but advisers said “all possibilities are on the table”.

Experts previously said it is too early to say whether the rest of the population will need a Covid-19 booster vaccine this winter.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he welcomed the JCVI's advice: “We need to learn to live with this virus.

"Our first Covid-19 vaccination programme is restoring freedom in this country, and our booster programme will protect this freedom.

"We are working with the NHS to make sure we can rapidly deliver this programme to maintain protection for people in the winter months.”

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The government has been trialling booster jabs, with former health secretary Matt Hancock saying last week that while second jabs offer very strong protection "there is more protection still that we think that you can get from a booster jab".

The trial is expected to report back in August.

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “Our Covid-19 vaccination programme has been a roaring success, with almost 85% of adults across the UK receiving a first dose and more than 62% getting both doses.

“We are now planning ahead to future-proof this progress and protect our most vulnerable from variants and flu ahead of the winter.

“Vaccines are the best way to stay on top of this virus and I urge everybody to take up the offer as soon as possible.”

Two doses of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are almost as effective against the Delta variant (from India) as they are against the Alpha variant (from Kent).

The Pfizer/BioNTech jab is 88% effective against the Delta variant after two doses, while the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has an efficacy of 60%, a study by Public Health England (PHE) found in May.

However, they were only 33% effective three weeks after the first dose.

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All adults are eligible to get the vaccine. And by July 19, all those aged 40 and over and the clinically extremely vulnerable, who received their first dose by mid-May, will have been offered their second dose, the government said.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said: “The announcement of interim advice from JCVI is good news.

"It shows that the vaccine experts are thinking carefully about how best to use vaccination to protect the most vulnerable and ensure everyone’s lives can remain as normal as possible for the autumn and winter.

“Of course, we have to be driven by data, and there will be more data from vaccine booster studies for JCVI to look at over summer, so we should all remember that this advice is interim and might change between now and September; however JCVI has clearly set out the broad direction of travel which I agree with, and which ministers have accepted.”