Fourth round of Covid vaccinations could start next week after slow rollout criticised

The rollout of fourth Covid jabs could start as soon as next week following criticism that NHS planned timescales were too slow.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) last month recommended extra boosters for those aged 75 and over around six months after their last vaccine.

But the NHS in England has yet to embark on the fourth rollout, despite the fact it is now six months since the last rollout began.

In guidance published last month, NHS England told vaccination services that the rollout was “expected to begin from early April”.

Last week The Telegraph highlighted concerns that the program was moving too slowly in England, with Jeremy Hunt, the former Health Secretary, calling for “more oomph on fourth jabs”.

The JCVI was also understood to be keen to see England start as soon as is operationally possible.

Increased cases

On Tuesday night a health source said: “We expect the rollout of the next set of boosters for the over-75s and those in elderly care homes to start as soon as next week. We are seeing cases increasing amongst the elderly and it’s right that we crack on with it. “

They said the timing was not related to recent rises in cases but to ensure the recommendations of the JCVI, which suggest a six-month interval, were followed in England.

Scotland began its rollout more than a week ago, with all over-75s being offered jabs 24 weeks after their last booster.

It comes amid rising Covid cases across the UK, with concern that the patterns could reflect waning immunity among those who were the first to receive third doses.

Latest figures in England show just 55.5 per cent of over-75s had a booster within the last five months, compared with 68.7 per cent the week before.

Those in this age group are expected to start getting texts and letters inviting them for a fourth jab as soon as next week, with booking systems set to open as soon as Monday.

NHS officials have always insisted that those eligible for a fourth dose will receive an invitation six months after their last jab, but said most of those in this group would not reach this stage until April.

In the last seven days, cases have risen by 52 per cent.

‘No cause for concern’

However, the Health Secretary has said such increases were to be expected.

“We are now open as a country and there’s more social mixing, but there’s nothing in the data at this point in time that gives us any cause for concern,” Sajid Javid told Sky News on Monday.

Meanwhile, Covid hospital admissions have risen by 25 per cent.

More than half of hospital patients with Covid are “incidental” cases, which means they are more likely to reflect infection rates in the community rather than severe illness.

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