All over-50s in UK to be offered Covid booster vaccine in autumn amid rising infections

Over-50s are among those who will be offered a Covid booster this autumn as concerns grow around a surge in cases. Emily Morgan reports.

All over-50s in the UK will be offered a Covid-19 booster and flu jab this autumn amid fast-rising coronavirus cases.

This is a change from previous guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which recommended that those older than 65 be offered the vaccinations.

Others who will be eligible for a further dose include residents in a care home for older adults and staff, frontline health and social care workers and those aged five to 49 in a clinical risk group – including pregnant women, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) announced.

The jab will also be offered to those aged five to 49 who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression, and those aged 16 to 49 who are carers.

It comes after the JCVI considered the spread of the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, as well as the benefits of combining the booster rollout with the flu vaccine rollout.

Experts hope expanding the offer will provide necessary protection to those at higher risk of severe illness and keep greater numbers of people out of hospital.

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The decision came as new figures showed Covid infections continue to rise across the whole of the UK and show "no signs" of decreasing.

The number of people who tested positive for coronavirus jumped by nearly 800,000 and infection rates had increased among all age groups, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

A total of 3.5 million people in private households are estimated to have had Covid last week, up 29% from 2.7 million the previous week.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at UKHSA, said: “Widening the eligibility for the flu vaccine will help reduce the number of people getting seriously ill and ease pressures on the NHS, particularly during the busy winter period.

“It is also important that everyone eligible for the Covid-19 booster gets the jab when invited, including pregnant women, who are among those at higher risk.

“Having Covid-19 during pregnancy can lead to complications. Getting the vaccine, including a booster, offers the best possible protection for you and your baby.”

Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the JCVI, said: “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 hospitalisations and deaths over the winter.”

All eligible groups are being encouraged to take up the vaccine when it is offered, even if they have had a spring booster.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will again be offering the free flu vaccine to additional groups once the most vulnerable, including previously announced pre-school and primary school children, those aged 65 years and over, and those in clinical risk groups, have been offered the jab.

The additional groups will be all adults aged 50 to 64 years, secondary school children in years 7, 8 and 9, who will be offered the vaccine in order of school year.

In due course, the NHS will announce when and how eligible groups will be able to book an appointment for their autumn coronavirus booster and free flu jab.