Covid: Over-40s eligible for vaccine booster as PM urges people to get jabs to avoid winter rules

The prime minister is urging people to get their third Covid vaccines, as ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan reports

The Covid vaccine booster programme is being expanded to include healthy 40 to 49-year-olds as the prime minister urged people to get their third jabs to avoid restrictions over winter.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said all adults over the age of 40 should be offered a booster, six months after their second dose.

It has also said that 16 and 17-year-olds should come forward for a second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, which should be given at least 12 weeks after the first.

The JCVI said that the broadening of the booster campaign and the offer of a second jab to 16 and 17-year-olds will “help extend our protection into 2022”.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference Boris Johnson said: "If we want to control the epidemic here in the UK and if we want to avoid restrictions on our daily lives we must all get vaccinated as soon as we are eligible.”He warned of a "new wave" of the virus sweeping through central Europe and now affecting western Europe.The prime minister said: "Those countries with lower vaccination rates have tended to see bigger surges in infection and in turn been forced to respond with harsher measures while those countries with higher vaccination rates have so far fared better."

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So far, some 12.6 million people have had a third Covid-19 jab.

Although there have been major warnings about the burdens on the NHS in recent weeks, Mr Johnson said there was nothing in the data to suggest the country needed to move to Plan B of Covid measures.England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said a rethink on whether Plan B of the winter coronavirus plan would be needed if case numbers increased on the scale seen in Europe but conceded the NHS is facing a "difficult winter."

Why do we need a booster jab?

The JCVI said people should be offered the Pfizer or Moderna jab as a booster, irrespective of which vaccine they had initially.

A new study highlighted how boosters can significantly increase people’s protection against getting a symptomatic case of Covid-19.

Two weeks after getting their booster, adults over 50 had at least 93% reduced risk of getting a symptomatic case of Covid-19, according to a study from the UK Health Security Agency (UKSHA).

Protection against more severe disease and death is expected to be even higher.

The vaccine rollout continues. Credit: PA

Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of Covid-19 immunisation for the JCVI, said: “Booster vaccine doses in more vulnerable adults, and second vaccine doses in 16 to 17-year-olds are important ways to increase our protection against Covid-19 infection and severe disease.

"These vaccinations will also help extend our protection into 2022.

Covid vaccines continue to protect

Dr June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), added: “We welcome today’s announcement by the JCVI, on the extension of the booster campaign to 40-49 year olds.

“This further strengthens our ability to ensure people are protected against Covid-19 and saves lives.

“Our safety monitoring to date shows that Covid-19 vaccines continue to have a positive safety profile for the majority of people.

"The vast majority of reactions which are reported relate to expected side-effects such as injection site reactions and flu-like symptoms, as was seen in our initial assessment.

“Our proactive monitoring of the safety of booster doses does not raise any new concerns."