Sajid Javid says over-50s will ‘probably’ need another Covid booster later this year

Health Secretary Sajid Javid gave his strongest hint yet that fifth doses would be offered this autumn

Fifth Covid jabs could be rolled out this autumn, the Health Secretary has suggested in the strongest hint yet that the vaccination program will be expanded again.

Grilled this morning about whether another booster campaign was in the works, Sajid Javid claimed it was ‘possible … probably for those that are 50 and over’. But he added a ‘final’ decision was yet to be made.

Over-75s, care home residents and patients with weak immune systems will begin receiving invitations for a spring Covid top-up from today, in order to bolster the immunity levels of millions.

If they are offered another jab in the autumn, it will be their fifth. Some immunocompromised adults will have already had five by then.

Mr Javid also revealed No10’s ‘level of concern has not changed’ over the past two weeks, despite the rise in infections and hospitalizations. He said the numbers ‘are still way below their peak’.

He also urged people to treat Covid like any other infectious disease, and ‘behave sensibly’ if they were feeling unwell or experiencing symptoms – including socialising less and staying indoors to avoid spreading the virus. He gave the advice ahead of England ending its free testing offer from next Friday.

Five million Britons became eligible for second boosters today, with the first 600,000 expected to be invited this week.

The move comes after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) recommended the spring top-up as a precautionary measure.

Vaccine numbers are going up but a shocking 50 per cent of 35-39's are still not boosted with their third dose of the vaccine

Vaccine numbers are going up but a shocking 50 per cent of 35-39’s are still not boosted with their third dose of the vaccine

Most vulnerable in society will be able to request their booster from today, government says

Most vulnerable in society will be able to request their booster from today, government says

It has now been six months since England’s rollout of third shots was launched. Scotland embarked on its top-up campaign more than a week ago.

Experts expressed concern that the current uptick in cases and hospitalizations could be an early sign of waning immunity from boosters, prompting calls for ‘more oomph’ in the program.

Mr Javid claimed the spring roll-out – which will cover over-75s, care home residents and anyone with weakened immune systems – will ‘top up their protection against this virus and allow them to go about their daily lives with more confidence’.

When the plans were first announced, officials claimed that it would mean some severely immunocompromised people who already had four jabs would get a fifth. The group can include blood cancer patients and transplant recipients.

It also raises the prospect that hundreds of thousands could even be offered a sixth dose this autumn, if a third round of boosters are approved.

Ministers have made no secret of plans for an annual Covid jabbing program, which could cost in the region of £ 600million. It is expected that Covid vaccines could eventually be rolled out every year in a similar way to the flu jabs. These are already offered to over-50s for free every winter.

SAGE scientists have also backed the strategy, saying it will likely be part of the coronavirus’ gradual transition to becoming endemic.

But other scientists have claimed a never-ending cycle of boosters might not be needed, if the virus continues to become milder over time.

Britain’s Covid cases have been rising for the last two weeks, with the country now recording about 80,000 new infections a day, on average.

Hospitalizations have also been heading up over this period, and are now at a similar level to late January, when the Omicron wave was subsiding.

But half of hospital patients with Covid are thought to be ‘incidental’ cases – those who test positive after being admitted for another reason, or beat the illness only to fall ill with something else.

It may mean the recent rise in hospital admissions is more likely to reflect infection rates in the community, rather than severe illness.

Ministers are not concerned about rising Covid cases, Health Secretary says

Ministers remain unconcerned by rising Covid cases, the Health Secretary revealed today.

Britain’s daily tally of Covid infections has risen for the past two-and-a-bit weeks with cases now averaging about 78,000 every day.

There are also now about 14,000 Covid patients in hospital, up from around 12,000 a week ago. Although figures show about half of these are ‘incidental’, where someone was admitted for another illness such as a fall before testing positive.

Asked about the data on BBC Breakfast, Mr Javid said ministers ‘level of concern hasn’t changed’.

‘That’s because although case numbers are rising, infections are rising and indeed hospital numbers are rising, they are still way below their peak.

‘And it’s also important for us when we review this, understand why they are rising and that is primarily due to the increased social mixing we’re seeing after the country’s opened up.

‘But also the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron which we know is on the one hand more infectious but, on the other hand, we know that our vaccines work just as well against this sub-variant.

‘And so taking all that into account, of course we keep the data under review, but there’s no particular cause for concern at this point.’

The uptick coincides with surging cases of an even more transmissible version of Omicron, named BA.2. It quickly became the dominant strain.

Ministers in England, however, say the increases were to be ‘expected’ following the country’s ‘Freedom Day’ on February 24 – when the final Covid measures were dumped.

Asked about Britain’s rising Covid cases on BBC Breakfast, Mr Javid said: ‘Our level of concern hasn’t changed and that’s because although case numbers are rising, infections are rising and indeed hospital numbers are rising, they are still way below their peak.

‘And it’s also important for us when we review this, understand why they are rising and that is primarily due to the increased social mixing we’re seeing after the country’s opened up.

‘But also the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron which we know is on the one hand more infectious but, on the other hand, we know that our vaccines work just as well against this sub-variant.

‘And so taking all that into account, of course we keep the data under review, but there’s no particular cause for concern at this point.’

There are also now about 14,000 Covid patients in hospital, up from around 12,000 a week ago.

But commenting on the figures, Mr Javid said: ‘Those that are actually there for Covid is a much smaller number and so that does give us a lot of confidence that we are learning to live with Covid.’

As part of the strategy from next Friday England will no longer offer free lateral flow or PCR tests to most people.

In Scotland, the swabbing regime will end in May, while in Wales they will no longer be available at the end of July. Northern Ireland is yet to set a date.

Mr Javid urged people to take a ‘common sense’ approach following the end of testing.

He said: ‘If you’re not feeling well, if you’ve got the symptoms of Covid, then it’s not a good idea to mix with other people – the right idea is to try to spend some time trying to stay away from others .

‘(Tests) are still free, but from April 1, they won’t be in terms of a universal offer – from that point we will focus our tests on those that are most vulnerable or in vulnerable settings.

‘And I think that’s the right way forward, post-April 1 if people have Covid symptoms, then they should just behave sensibly – like you would expect someone to really behave if they had flu symptoms in the past – and that is to socialise a bit less, stay indoors and and wait till you feel better. ‘

Asked if people should still get tested, even if they have to pay for it, Mr Javid added: ‘I think that will be a decision for that individual. If you are someone who is vulnerable then the test will still be available for free.

He said some high street retailers were selling tests for ‘something like £ 2 each’, adding: ‘So people who want to have one – even if they’re not in a vulnerable group – that’s an option that’s still available for them.

Mr Javid also urged Britons to start living with Covid like any other infectious disease during an interview on Good Morning Britain, saying: ‘When it comes to someone that may be having to take time off work or socialising less because they believe they might be positive , that is handled in the same way that all other infectious diseases are handled. ‘

Vulnerable people in England will begin receiving invitations for the spring Covid booster from today. People aged 75 and over and those who are immunosuppressed will be able to book from 7am.

Local NHS teams will be contacting care homes to arrange the jab for people who are eligible and have been invited.

The NHS said it will invite people to arrange a jab through the national booking service, which can be accessed online at nhs.uk/covidvaccine or by calling 119, when it is their turn.

Nikki Kanani, GP and deputy SRO for the NHS Covid Vaccination Program, said: ‘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 i know.

‘The response so far from the public to the largest and most successful vaccination program 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 program is once again ready to get people protected, so when you are invited please do come forward for your spring dose.’

Health chiefs are expecting high uptake of spring boosters among people aged 75 and over after 4.5 million of them had their top-up jab over autumn and winter.

The NHS said it has recruited additional call handlers for the 119 service to help people book their vaccine appointments, while hundreds of sites including community pharmacies, vaccination centers and hospital hubs will administering the booster.

.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.