Health Secretary Sajid Javid said a booster programme is about to be recommended by the JCVI, and also suggested jabs for healthy children aged 12 to 15 could be approved within days
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A Covid booster vaccine rollout is set to be recommended by the government’s advisors in the ‘next few days’ as the work is ‘almost done’, the Health Secretary has declared.
Sajid Javid said he expected the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to imminently spell out exactly who should get a third dose of the vaccine, how, and in what order.
JCVI experts have spent months studying how boosters should be rolled out – including whether different vaccine brands can be ‘mixed and matched’, and whether the flu jab should be given at the same time.
Last week the JCVI approved third doses, but only for around 500,000 people with weakened immune systems. Those third doses did not count as a booster programme, as they’re for people in whom the first two doses might not have worked.
Mr Javid told Sky News: “I’m very confident there will be a booster programme but in terms of who actually gets it and when, we’re waiting for final advice, which could come across certainly in the next few days from the JCVI. We need to see that advice.”
He added: “That work is almost done and based on the timeline they’ve given us, I’m confident we could start the booster programme this month.”
Mr Javid also suggested first doses for healthy children aged 12 to 15 could be approved within days by the UK’s four Chief Medical Officers.
The JCVI passed over the decision to the CMOs last week, saying there was only a marginal health benefit to children of vaccinating them compared to the extremely rare side-effected from a jab.
The CMOs are widely expected to approve jabs for 12-15s – which will be delivered on school grounds with parental consent – because they are allowed to factor in the wider benefit to schooling and society.
Mr Javid insisted the CMOs need “breathing space” and only had four days, adding “I don’t know” if all over-12s will be offered a jab.
He said “I don’t want to put a timeline on it,” but added: “I would expect to take [advice] from them in the next few days.”
NHS England had been told to prepare for a booster rollout from September 6, but the JCVI didn’t give its advice by that date.
The JCVI was accused of “dithering” as other countries start offering third jabs to the general population and initial doses to children.
Once the advice comes, millions of double-jabbed Brits will be offered a third ‘booster’ dose of Covid vaccine this winter to safeguard against a fourth wave.
In interim advice on June 30, the JCVI suggested there could be two stages to a booster rollout – similar to the rules for first doses that went out between January and March.
Stage one would give boosters to immunosuppressed and extremely vulnerable over-16s; care home residents; frontline health and care workers; and all over-70s.
Stage two would give them to all over-50s, plus all over-16s in a flu or Covid risk group, and any adults who share their home with an immunosuppressed person.