Coronavirus booster vaccines to be offered to over 50s in Autumn

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Under the latest announcements, all over-50s will be given the booster this autumn.

As well as all over-50s, all young people at high risk from Covid and health and social care staff will also be given the booster.

This differs from the original plan which was not to jab those between the ages of 50 and 65.

However, such is the veracity of the latest Covid variants that the decision has been taken to change the Government’s Covid strategy.

While the age groups have been announced, the details of the roll-out have not.

Professor Anthony Harnden of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (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.”

The booster programme comes at a time when data suggests one in 18 people in the UK are testing positive for the virus.

In a statement, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Today we have confirmed the next phase in our booster programme to keep our defences strong over autumn and winter.”

As with other doses of the vaccine, the booster can also cause some side effects, including:
• A sore arm from the injection
• Feeling tired
• A headache
• Feeling ache
• Being sick.

Meanwhile, as politicians and government departments plan, it is the doctors and nurses on the frontline who are facing up to the reality of the summer wave, one that has come as a surprise to many.

Epidemiologist at Harvard University Dr Stephen Kissler said: “The way that the pandemic has played out and is continuing to play out is unexpected.”

Kissler was one of several scientists who predicted Covid would become a seasonal illness in April 2020, one that would surge as late as 2025.

At the time Kissler said: “We’d expect strong seasonal wintertime patterns where you don’t see a lot outside those winter months.”

Fast forward over two years and his view has changed: “We’re in a different landscape now.

“The fact we’re having such a rapid succession of variants – we seem to be racking them up at alarming speed – is the most surprising thing and that’s changed the way the waves look.”

Kissler isn’t the only one surprised by the changing pattern of COVID-19; Imperial College London’s Professor Peter

Openshaw said: “It does look as if the successive waves are getting closer together. They are actually becoming more frequent, with one piling in on top of the other.”

Professor Openshaw says the new waves are being driven with variants that have greater immune escape; a greater ability to evade the immune system and protection conferred by the vaccine.

The vaccine is part of the complex balancing act of managing the virus; they provide protection from the disease, but are less effective at preventing its spread.

Professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol Adam Finn says: “We’ve got a tool that is really good at stopping the old folks from dying.”

While it can prevent death of the elderly, Professor Finn added: “Vaccinating everyone every three months is just not feasible.”

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