The Covid-19 vaccine booster programme is to be extended to include healthy 40 to 49-year-olds, health officials have said.
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.
The Committee said people should be offered the Pfizer or Moderna jab as a booster, regardless of which vaccine they had initially, and that 16 and 17-year-olds should also come forward for their second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.
So far, some 12.6 million people have had a third Covid-19 jab, but 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”.
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A new study from the UK Health Security Agency (UKSHA) highlighted how boosters can significantly increase people’s protection against getting a symptomatic case of Covid.
The study showed that two weeks after getting their booster, adults over 50 had at least 93% reduced risk of getting a symptomatic case of Covid-19, with protection against more severe disease and death expected to be even higher.
‘Please make sure to have these vaccines and keep yourselves protected’
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.
“If you are eligible, please make sure to have these vaccines and keep yourselves protected as we head into winter.”
Dr June Raine, chief executive of the 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.
“We also welcome the recommendation for 16 to 17-year-olds to come forward and have a second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.”