COVID-19 booster shots can now be administered sooner than six months after the second dose to certain vulnerable groups for operational reasons, the UK government has announced.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKSA) has updated the advice in its Green Book, which contains the latest information on vaccines and vaccination procedures in the country for healthcare professionals.
Under the new guidelines announced on Friday, care home residents who have been given their second vaccine dose at different times will be able to be jabbed in the same session, as long as it has been at least five months since their last dose.
It is also expected to help other vulnerable groups, such as housebound patients, so that they can have their flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time.
We are making great progress with the booster rollout and I want to thank everyone working so hard to get jabs in arms, UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
This updated guidance will ensure healthcare professionals have the necessary flexibility in the booster programme, allowing more vulnerable people to be vaccinated where it makes operational sense to do so including our loved ones in care homes, he added.
The flexibility in clinical guidance is expected to speed up the administration of life-saving booster jabs, making it more efficient to reach the country’s most vulnerable, people aged 50-plus, to ensure they’re protected in the winter months.
The move comes as the National Health Service (NHS) declared a booster blitz on Saturday, with more than 1.6 million candidates, aged 50-plus, who were eligible for their COVID-19 vaccine booster shots being invited for their top-up jabs next week.
Thanks to the efforts of the NHS staff, millions of people have received their booster shots already and just over six weeks in, with over half of eligible over 50s already protected as we head into a winter like no other, said Dr Nikki Kanani, deputy lead of the NHS vaccination programme.
The vaccine is simple, quick and effective and will provide maximum protection for citizens from the virus, she asserted.
People who are eligible are invited for their booster shots between five and six months on from their second dose, with the eligibility figure changing regularly as additional people complete the gap since their second doses.
Under the NHS system, anyone eligible for a booster shot, and is 190 days on from their second dose can go online and make the booking.
The UK Office for National Statistics weekly estimates show that around one in 50 people had coronavirus in England in the week upto October 22 which is the same proportion during the peak of the second wave in early January.
On Saturday, the daily recorded COVID-19 infections across the UK stood at 43,467 cases, with 186 deaths.