Dr Hilary discusses ways to avoid catching the flu
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) issued its NHS guidance on Tuesday 8 August.
Similar advice has also been published for flu shots, meaning 12 million people will no longer be eligible for the free vaccines.
Before the pandemic struck, flu jabs were offered to healthy adults over the age of 65, as well as to children and younger adults with underlying health problems.
However, Covid saw the rollout extended to those aged 50 to 64 in line with those eligible for Covid boosters.
The change in the guidance follows reports the NHS will delay vaccine rollout until October in order to maximise protection for over-65s and others who are eligible.
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The JCVI explained that jabs should be administered by early December to optimise winter protection.
NHS England is now expected to confirm its vaccine strategy in the coming days.
But the hope is that almost halving the number of people who can get their boosters and flu jabs will enable a much faster rollout.
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Those no longer able to get a free flu jab can buy theirs privately from High Street pharmacists for around £20.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: “I have now accepted the advice from the JCVI on eligibility for the 2023 autumn booster programme, to protect those most vulnerable from Covid.
“NHS England will confirm details on how and when eligible people can access the autumn booster vaccine shortly, and I would urge anyone invited, including those yet to have their first jab, to come forward as soon as possible.”
This new guidance comes after a recent NHS England board meeting suggested that Britain is expecting one of its worst ever flu seasons.
Australia, where the flu season normally predicts what is in store for Europe, is currently going through one of its worst seasons on record.
Covid shows no signs of slowing down either, with a new variant dubbed Eris accounting for one in 10 Covid cases in the UK.
Dr Mary Ramsay, director of public health Programmes at the UK Health Security Agency, said: “The COVID-19 virus has not gone away and we expect to see it circulating more widely over the winter months with the numbers of people getting ill increasing.
“The booster is being offered to those at higher risk of severe illness and by taking up the booster vaccine this autumn, you will increase your protection ahead of winter, when respiratory viruses are typically at their peak.”
The new JCVI advice states the following groups will be offered a booster this autumn:
- Residents in a care home for older adults
- All adults aged 65 years and over
- Persons aged six months to 64 years in a clinical risk group, as laid out in the Immunisation Green Book,COVID-19 Chapter (Green Book)
- Frontline health and social care workers
- Persons aged 12 to 64 years who are household contacts (as defined in the Green Book) of people with immunosuppression
- Persons aged 16 to 64 years who are carers (as defined in the Green Book) and staff working in care homes for older adults.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, Chair of COVID-19 immunisation on the JCVI, added: “The autumn booster programme will continue to focus on those at greatest risk of getting seriously ill. These persons will benefit the most from a booster vaccination.
“It is important that everyone who is eligible takes up a booster this autumn – helping to prevent them from hospitalisations and deaths arising from the virus over the winter months.”
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