• Sunday, July 14, 2024

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Covid booster programme for over-65s to start in October

According to experts, Covid-19 cases have risen over the past month

Photo: iStock

By: Pramod Thomas

AS part of the October booster programme, free coronavirus and flu vaccines will be extended to individuals aged 65 and above, as well as to health and social care workers and adults with weakened immune systems.

Eligible people can receive the vaccine at GP surgeries and pharmacies.

The eligibility requirements for the NHS Covid booster scheme have been scaled down in comparison to the past two years when the vaccine was available to all adults aged 50 and older.

According to the NHS, people with compromised immune systems may include those undergoing treatments like chemotherapy, patients with conditions like blood cancer, and people with diseases that impact their immune systems, such as HIV.

Moreover, individuals with chronic respiratory conditions, including severe asthma, and those with underlying health conditions like diabetes will also qualify for the booster shot.

However, younger healthy adults will not be able to get a Covid-19 booster this year.

The Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) urged the NHS to complete vaccinations by early December to protect people during winter months.

“The Covid-19 virus has not gone away and we expect to see it circulating more widely over the winter months with the numbers of people getting ill increasing. The booster is being offered to those at higher risk of severe illness, and by taking up the booster vaccine this autumn you will increase your protection ahead of winter, when respiratory viruses are typically at their peak,” Dr Mary Ramsay, from the UK Health Security Agency, is reported to have said.

“We have seen a small rise in hospital admission rates in most age groups, particularly among the elderly. Overall levels of admission still remain extremely low and we are not currently seeing a similar increase in (intensive care) admissions. We will continue to monitor these rates closely.”

According to Prof Wei Shen Lim, who leads the Covid-19 immunisation efforts at the JCVI, the upcoming autumn booster programme will prioritise individuals most susceptible to severe illness.

“It is important that everyone who is eligible takes up a booster this autumn — helping to prevent them from hospitalisations and deaths arising from the virus over the winter months,” Prof Shen Lim said.

Last year, 73 per cent of individuals aged 65 to 70 in England received the Covid-19 autumn booster shot, with the percentage increasing to 84 per cent among those aged over 80. In total 15 million people had boosters.

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