England’s National Health Service (NHS) opened bookings on Monday for the fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose for those aged 75 and over and high-risk immunosuppressed individuals as part of its spring booster vaccination programme.
The UK's independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) had advised a spring booster should be offered to those most vulnerable to COVID-19 as a precautionary measure. The additional top up vaccine dose will be given around six months after the last dose of a COVID vaccine.
“Spring boosters will help top up the immunity of the elderly and the most vulnerable to ensure they are protected and will help us continue to live with this virus,” UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said.
Around 5 million people will be able to get a fourth dose during the latest NHS booster campaign by contacting over 600,000 people to invite them to book their vaccine.
A first booster dose, or third vaccine, is currently available for everyone aged 16 and over, and at-risk children aged 12 to 15 and until now only people with severely weakened immune systems had been eligible for a fourth dose, which has now been expanded to the most vulnerable categories.
“Sadly, we are still seeing large numbers of people seriously unwell in hospital with COVID so it remains vital that those most at risk come forward when they are invited to do so,” said Dr Nikki Kanani from the NHS COVID Vaccination Programme.
“The response so far from the public to the largest and most successful vaccination programme in NHS history has been incredible, with more than nine in 10 people aged 75 and over getting their initial booster. The NHS Covid vaccination programme is once again ready to get people protected, so when you are invited please do come forward for your spring dose,” she said.
The NHS quoted recent research from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to show that its booster programme has helped prevent around 157,000 hospitalisations since mid-December 2021. However, NHS hospitals have treated more than 100,000 patients with COVID since the start of the Omicron wave.
“We are absolutely determined to protect those most vulnerable to COVID. Please take up the offer of a spring booster as soon as you are contacted by the NHS – it will protect you and ensure we can continue to enjoy our freedoms,” said UK Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup.
According to official figures, the NHS has delivered over 117 million vaccinations, including over 32 million boosters across England. Local NHS teams will be contacting care homes in their patch to arrange for spring boosters for people who are eligible.
Hundreds of sites including community pharmacies, vaccination centres and hospital hubs will also be rolling out the fourth doses.
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