‘Strong possibility’ Covid jabs will be given every autumn alongside flu vaccine

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Vaccine adviser Professor Adam Finn raised the prospect of Covid jabs being dished out every winter

There is a ‘strong possibility’ that Covid booster vaccines will be rolled out every year alongside flu shots, a Government vaccine adviser claimed today.

Approximately 8million elderly Britons and immunocompromised over-12s will be offered their second top-up jab this spring.

They will then be called in again in the autumn as part of a mass NHS booster programme, which could cover all over-50s.  

Professor Adam Finn, who advises No10 on the roll out, today raised the prospect of an annual Covid jabbing drive, saying it was an ‘open question’. 

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) member told BBC Breakfast: ‘It’s hard to be absolutely sure about that, but the direction of discussion at the moment is certainly a booster campaign in the autumn, directed probably at the people who… we think are most at risk.

‘Whether that goes on year after year like the flu programme is still an open question and depends on what Covid does to us in the interim.

‘But it’s a strong possibility we may have a winter-time campaign, combined with the flu vaccine campaign, going forward.’

Ending two years of on-off lockdowns yesterday, Boris Johnson said vaccines had been key to ‘restoring our liberties in full’. 

Government scientists say the extra spring shots are needed to maintain immunity levels, amid concerns over the waning of protection. 

Israel, Denmark and several other countries are already rolling out second boosters. 

The over-75s, older care home residents and immunocompromised people aged 12 and over will be eligible for the top-up dose in the coming months to maintain their protection against becoming severely unwell with the virus. They will either be given a Pfizer or Moderna jab (pictured)

The over-75s, older care home residents and immunocompromised people aged 12 and over will be eligible for the top-up dose in the coming months to maintain their protection against becoming severely unwell with the virus. They will either be given a Pfizer or Moderna jab (pictured)

Ministers have made no secret of plans for an annual Covid jabbing programme, which could cost in the region of £600million.

SAGE scientists have also backed the strategy, saying this will likely be part of Covid’s gradual transition to becoming endemic like the flu. 

But other scientists have claimed a never-ending cycle of boosters might not be needed, if the virus continues to become milder over time.

No10’s vaccine advisers have also hinted that not everyone will need boosters annually, with the top up shots likely reserved for the oldest and most at risk groups. 

Flu vaccines are normally offered to all adults over the age of 65 every winter, alongside the vulnerable. 

But last year the offer was extended to over-50s amid concerns the NHS could be hit by a ‘double-whammy’ of flu and Covid.

Last year’s uptake hit a record high of 80 per cent among the over-65s, but for 50 to 64-year-olds only 26 per cent got the jab.

Sajid Javid reveals he will STILL wear a face mask on a ‘packed’ Tube 

Sajid Javid today admitted he will continue to wear a face mask on busy trains and urged ill workers to stay at home in the post-Covid era.

Despite masks no longer being compulsory in public settings in England, the Health Secretary said he would still cover up on a ‘packed’ London Tube because cases are still high.

He also called on people to take more ‘personal responsibility’ over their decisions, saying workers should ‘stay away from others’ and no longer battle into the office if they feel unwell.

Boris Johnson last night hailed the end of the ‘darkest, grimmest years in our peace-time history’ as he confirmed the final Covid curbs would be axed.

After almost two years of on-off lockdowns, the PM revealed that all remaining legal restrictions will be lifted at midnight tomorrow.

The requirement to self-isolate for at least five days after testing positive for Covid is being dropped, and free testing — thought to cost No10 £2billion a month — will end on April 1 for all but the elderly and vulnerable.

Around 70 per cent of over-65s get the flu jab every year on average, figures suggest.

Britain has already ‘future-proofed’ its supplies of Covid jabs by securing another 114million doses to arrive over the next two years.

Made up of Moderna and Pfizer shots, the amount on order is almost enough to inoculate all 67million Britons twice more.

Last winter’s booster drive saw 66 per cent of adults getting a top-up dose amid concerns over the Omicron variant. 

But uptake was patchy with more than 90 per cent of over-70s getting the jabs, compared to less than four in ten people in younger age groups. 

Professor Finn, a paediatrician at Bristol University, also refused to support Boris Johnson’s decision to axe the final Covid rules in England. 

He told BBC Breakfast: ‘This is a tricky business, we really can’t predict the future with all that much confidence.

‘We have to make a best guess, we have to base it on the evidence that we’ve got and we clearly all of us don’t want to go back to a position where large numbers of people are dying and being admitted to hospital.

‘But we have to make the best call that we can.

‘And I think the public have done a lot to mitigate the seriousness of the pandemic by being cautious, avoiding transmitting infection to each other, taking vaccines, wearing masks and so on. And I hope they’ll go on doing that.’

Over-75s, all care home residents and immunocompromised people aged 12 and over will be eligible for the top-up dose in the coming weeks.

The JCVI, which advises No10 on the rollout, said the spring roll-out will ‘maintain high levels of protection for the most vulnerable individuals’. 

Eligible over-18s will receive a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine this spring, while immunocompromised people aged 12 to 18 will receive a Pfizer jab. They will only be eligible for the additional jab six months after their last.

Officials say it will mean that some severely immunocompromised people who have already had four jabs will get a fifth — this group includes blood cancer patients and transplant recipients. It is unclear how many Britons have already had four vaccines.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid greenlit the plans, which will apply to the entirety of the UK, not just England.

The vaccination campaign forms part of Mr Johnson’s blueprint for living with the virus, which saw the Prime Minister yesterday confirm that self-isolation rules will be axed from Thursday.

Speaking to MPs in the Commons, Mr Johnson claimed the ‘targeted’ rollout will safe guard against a ‘possible resurgence of the virus’.

The precautionary vaccination approach comes even though just a small amount of waning has been recorded among the vulnerable groups.

Cases have been are falling and no new concerning variant has been identified since Omicron.

Official data suggests older people who have had two doses have roughly 90 per cent protection against hospitalisation straight after their booster dose. The figure drops to roughly 88 per cent 10 weeks later.

But the JCVI believes that even a small drop off in protection among vulnerable people can heap pressure on the NHS.

Older and immunocompromised people are most at risk from the virus, with 160 Covid hospital admissions per 100,000 over-85s recorded in January.

Among 75 to 85-year-olds, 60 admissions per 100,000 people were logged at the start of the year.

For all other age groups, around 20 people were hospitalised because of the virus per 100,000 people.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of Covid vaccination at the JCVI, said: ‘Last year’s booster vaccination programme has so far provided excellent protection against severe Covid.

‘To maintain high levels of protection for the most vulnerable individuals in the population, an extra spring dose of vaccine is advised ahead of an expected autumn booster programme later this year.

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