Eligible patients will begin receiving Covid booster vaccines ‘from next week’, the health secretary has announced.
Speaking at parliament yesterday (14 September), Sajid Javid outlined the ‘five pillars’ of the winter plan which included the Government’s plan for vaccinations and booster jabs, test and trace measures, funding for the NHS and social care, flu vaccines and border defences.
Mr Javid also confirmed that the Government would be following the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s (JCVI) advice that all patients in groups 1-9 of the first phase of the Covid vaccination campaign will have a Covid booster jab six months after their second dose, also announced yesterday.
‘The NHS will contact people at the right time and no one needs to come forward at this point’, he explained.
This includes everyone over 50 and people with underlying health conditions which make them vulnerable to Covid. It also includes adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals.
In his speech, he outlined the Government’s five-part winter plan as:
- Vaccinations and new Covid treatments
- Testing and tracing
- Extra funding for NHS and social care (as announced last week); and mandatory Covid and flu vaccinations for NHS frontline staff (subject to consultation outcome)
- Flu vaccinations; meeting outdoors/ventilating indoor spaces; wearing face masks where recommended
- International vaccination and border control.
He also outlined the Government’s plan B as:
- communicating need for caution to the public;
- legally mandating face coverings in certain settings;
- reserving the power to mandate Covid passports;
- asking people to work from home for a limited time.
Meanwhile, medicines regulator MHRA has determined that co-administration of flu and Covid booster jabs is safe and can go ahead.
However, Mr Javid did not mention the possibility of co-administration of both jabs this upcoming winter.
Last week, the Government launched a consolation on making it mandatory for all frontline health and social care staff in England to have a flu and Covid vaccine.
Although he is keeping an ‘open mind’ Mr Javid said it is ‘highly likely’ that frontline NHS staff and those working in social care setting will have to be vaccinated.
Mr Javid also said that PCR testing will continue to be available free of charge, as will symptom-free lateral flow tests.
Test and trace will continue to run throughout winter and for those still required to self-isolate, the Government will offer practical and financial support to those eligible. That will be reviewed at the end of March 2022.
School vaccination campaign
It follows the news that the school vaccination programme is to start next week, offering children aged 12-15 years old one dose of the Pfizer Covid vaccine, ministers have confirmed.
It comes after unanimous advice from the UK’s four chief medical officers (CMOs) who recommended the move earlier this week.
The programme will be supported by GPs and community pharmacies.
Parental, guardian or carer consent will be sought by vaccination healthcare staff, in line with existing school vaccination programmes, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.
A version of this story was published on our sister titles, Healthcare Leader and Pulse.