The Covid booster vaccination programme will go ahead next week, as part of Government’s winter plan to manage the pandemic, the health and social care secretary announced today.
From next week the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine will be used as the booster dose for around 30 million people – including people aged 50 and over, care home residents, health and social care workers, and younger adults with health conditions.
Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid also confirmed to the House of Commons that 12- to 15-year-olds will be offered a first dose of the vaccine from 20 September. Getting people vaccinated is the first of five ‘pillars’ of the plan for dealing with coronavirus through autumn and winter, he added.
Ministers have also prepared a ‘Plan B’ to prevent ‘unsustainable pressure’ on the NHS. This could include compulsory face coverings in some settings and asking people to work from home.
Mr Javid said: ‘We must be vigilant as autumn and winter are favourable conditions for Covid-19 and other seasonal viruses. Children have returned to school, more and more people are returning to work, the changing weather means there will be more people perhaps spending time indoors.’
Under Plan A, the five main defences against Covid would include encouraging the unvaccinated to have the jab, vaccinating 12 to 15-year-olds and launching the booster programme to around 30 million people.
Free coronavirus tests, defences against variants of concern at international borders and encouraging people to meet outdoors, ventilate and wear face masks will also continue.
The five pillars of the winter plan:
- Getting more people vaccinated. For example, through booster doses and offering a vaccine to 12- to 15-year-olds.
- Supporting the NHS and social care. This includes £5.4bn towards the NHS Covid response over the next six months.
- Guidance and communication. People will be encouraged to meet outdoors, ventilate and wear face masks in crowded areas.
- International approach. The UK will play its part to accelerate global access to vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. It was also maintain defences at the border against variants of concern.
- Test, trace and isolate. Free coronavirus testing and contract tracing will continue.
Mr Javid also said it was ‘highly likely’ frontline NHS staff and those in wider social care settings will need to have Covid-19 and flu vaccinations in order to be deployed, after the Government launched a six-week consultation on the topic this month.
This comes after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommended booster doses for some groups amid concerns about immunity.
RCN chief executive Pat Cullen, said: ‘These measures will be key to getting us through the knife-edge winter we all fear. But nursing staff will be concerned at issues not referenced today.
‘With more Covid-19 vaccinations to deliver as well as the flu programme, the shortages in the nursing workforce will be increasingly exposed. Neglecting to mention these issues does not mean they will go away.’