Government 'ramping up' plans for COVID-19 booster jabs in autumn

The government is 'ramping up' plans for an autumn booster campaign that could see practices deliver millions more COVID-19 jabs to protect against new variants, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has said.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock (Photo: Dominic Lipinski/WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock (Photo: Dominic Lipinski/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Speaking in the House of Commons on 19 April, Mr Hancock said the government had procured enough vaccine doses to begin booster jabs later this year - adding that new vaccines were being designed to target ‘variants of concern’.

GPonline reported in February that the government was planning a booster campaign to offer patients a third dose of vaccine and that regular vaccination could become ‘a regular part of managing COVID-19’.

Mr Hancock added that the booster jab programme would be delivered on a ‘similar basis’ to the initial vaccine programme. He said it was still unknown whether COVID-19 vaccination could be delivered at the same time as the seasonal flu jab - set to be offered to an expanded population for a second year running in 2021.

COVID-19 booster

The health secretary also told MPs that 557 cases of the South Africa variant had been identified in the UK since December, with 103 cases of an Indian variant also discovered.

Speaking about plans to give COVID-19 booster jabs this autmn, Mr Hancock said: ‘The biggest risk to our progress here in the UK is a new variant that the vaccine does not work as well against. We know from our response to other viruses, like flu, that we need updated vaccines to tackle mutated viruses.

‘So I can tell the House that as we complete the programme of first and second jabs, we’re ramping up plans for a booster shot – to make sure our vaccines stay ahead of the virus. We have already procured enough vaccine doses to begin the booster shots later this year.’

Taking questions from MPs about a COVID-19 booster campaign, Mr Hancock suggested that the government hoped patients could receive a third COVID jab and the seasonal flu jab together.

Flu vaccine

He said: ‘The booster shot programme will be rolled out in a similar way to the first two jabs. There will of course be some differences, not least because of the interaction of an autumn COVID vaccination programme with the autumn-winter flu vaccination programme.

'We still need the final clinical results on their interaction to see whether someone can have both at the same time, which would obviously be logistically easier. Those matters need to be resolved.'

More than 10m people UK-wide have received both doses of COVID-19 vaccine, with uptake for all over-50s at 94% based on Office for National Statistics population estimates. Population data from the National Immunisation Management Service suggest the figure is around 89%.

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