Covid booster jabs rolled out early in care homes after fears of new variant

The autumn flu and Covid-19 vaccine programme has got underway after being brought forward by a month in England following the identification of a new Covid variant.

Stan Southern, 84, was first in line for his Covid booster jab at Grange Lea Nursing Home in Bolton.

He said: "It is beneficial for me, so why not have it? It is about looking after myself and health and that's all I'm bothered about."

Stan is one of thousands of care home residents across the North West being offered the Covid booster and flu vaccine as part of the NHS winter vaccine plan that is being rolled out a month early.

Dorothy Morgan, 89, was also keen to get her booster saying: "I think it is important to get it, very important"

The vaccination programme is starting earlier than planned after a new variant of coronavirus was detected.

The autumn flu and Covid booster campaign got underway on 11 September. Credit: PA Images

While the variant, known as BA.2.86, has not been classified as a "variant of concern", scientists have said that it carries a high number of mutations and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is watching it closely.

Care homes are being targeted this week and other adults who are eligible for Covid and flu vaccines - including those aged 65 and over, people in at-risk groups and the immunosuppressed - will be invited by the NHS to get their jabs from next week.

These groups will be able to book their jabs from 18 September through the NHS website, the NHS App or by calling 119.

GP surgeries or other local NHS services are also contacting people to offer the vaccines.

Vaccine programmes have already kicked off in Scotland, while Wales will roll out at the same time as England, and Northern Ireland officially starts its programme on September 18.

NHS England is urging people to get both jabs to avoid a potential "twindemic" of flu and Covid, which would put pressure on the health service.

An outbreak of Covid-19 in a care home in Norfolk at the end of August saw 33 out of 38 residents test positive for the virus, along with 12 members of staff, according to the UKHSA.

Dr Helen Wall was at the Grange Lea Nursing Home for the vaccine rollout and said: "It's super important that we vaccinate out care home residents and keep our most vulnerable protected from covid, it can spread really quickly in a care home setting."

After the vaccination rollout was brought forward, Dr Wall said: "There is some concern around the new variant that's out and about what inference that may have on Covid and how it spreads and how it affects people.

"What we don't want is to end up in the middle of winter not having vaccinated everybody in time and then have a dangerous variant on our hand."

People who can have a Covid booster include:

  • residents in a care home for older adults

  • all adults aged 65 years and over

  • people aged six months to 64 years in a clinical risk group

  • frontline health and social care workers

  • people aged 12 to 64 who are household contacts of people with weakened immune systems

  • people aged 16 to 64 who are carers, and staff working in care homes for older adults