This Morning: Dr Zoe talks about new Covid variant XBB1.5
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Health chiefs have confirmed that an autumn 2023 Covid booster roll-out will go ahead for at-risk individuals, with a smaller group of vulnerable individuals to be offered another vaccine in spring too. Healthy under-50s, however, will no longer be offered a booster vaccine after February 12. The decision to wind down on the vaccine offer in 2023 follows dwindling uptake of boosters jabs among the young and healthy.
Healthy people aged between 16 and 49 are currently able to get two primary Covid vaccines and a booster dose.
Next month the UKHSA will end this offer, which started in December 2021, as the Government transitions away from a pandemic emergency response towards a pandemic recovery.
On Wednesday, The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisations (JCVI) advised the Government to start planning for a spring and autumn Covid booster campaign for the most vulnerable.
Details of the rollout are yet to be confirmed, but the next campaign is understood to be similar to that of 2022.
Last year, the doses were offered to over-75s, immunosuppressed individuals and care home residents.
Individuals over 50 years of age and those deemed clinically vulnerable, were able to get an autumn 2022 dose.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of Covid jabs at the JCVI, said: “The vaccination programme continues to reduce severe disease across the population while helping to protect the NHS.
“That is why we have advised planning for further booster vaccines for persons at higher risk of serious illness through an autumn booster programme later this year.
“We will very shortly also provide final advice on a spring booster programme for those at greatest risk.”
The decision to phase out the vaccine offer over the course of 2023 follows the release of data indicating that vaccine uptake among the under-50s is dwindling.
Government data shows that less than 0.1 percent of eligible under-50s have come forward to get a third dose of the vaccine since April 2022.
So far, almost 13.7 million people aged between 16 and 49 years old have received three doses of the vaccine.
What’s more, almost 19.8 and 21.3 million people have had their second and first doses of the vaccine, respectively.
Government data also shows that there 29.6 million people aged between 16 and 49, and just 46 percent of eligible under-50s are getting three doses.
A statement on the Government’s website reads: “We strongly encourage everyone who is currently eligible for a first booster and is yet to come forward to do so before the offer closes.
“As the transition continues away from a pandemic emergency response towards pandemic recovery, the JCVI has advised that the 2021 booster offer for persons aged 16 to 49 years who are not in a clinical risk group should close in alignment with the close of the autumn 2022 booster vaccination campaign.”
The risk of severe Covid continues to be disproportionally greater in those from older health groups, care home residents and individuals with underlying health conditions, said the JCVI.
The committee added that there continues to be uncertainty about the evolution of the virus, as well as the durability and breadth of immunity, limiting the “development of a routine immunisation programme against Covid”.
Emergency vaccination campaigns may still be warranted should a new variant of concern emergency with significant biological differences to Omicron, said the JCVI.
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