Government to unveil COVID-19 booster campaign as part of NHS winter plan

The government will unveil details of a COVID-19 booster campaign on 14 September as part of a plan for managing the pandemic through autumn and winter, after receiving final advice from the JCVI.

Downing Street (Photo: Andrew Aitchison/Getty Images)
Downing Street (Photo: Andrew Aitchison/Getty Images)

Prime minister Boris Johnson will set out the plans this afternoon in a statement to the House of Commons and at a Downing Street press conference. Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid will also make a statement.

Reports suggest the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) will back boosters for all over-50s and patients who are clinically vulnerable - in line with interim advice published in June.

Mr Javid said last week he was 'confident' a COVID-19 booster campaign would go ahead this month, but admitted the government was awaiting JCVI advice to determine who would receive it and when.

COVID-19 booster

The likely scope of a booster programme has been in doubt for some time, after a JCVI member said last month that a much smaller cohort of people may require a booster dose than the broad range proposed in interim advice.

The government said its autumn and winter plan would set out 'a renewed focus on vaccines as the first line of defence, supported by testing, public health advice, and a world-leading variant surveillance system'.

It cited Public Health England data showing that 24.7m infections and around 112,300 deaths have been prevented by the vaccination programme in England.

Mr Johnson said: 'The pandemic is far from over, but thanks to our phenomenal vaccine programme, new treatments and testing we are able to live with the virus without significant restrictions on our freedoms.

NHS winter plan

'Today I will set out a clear plan for the autumn and winter, when the virus has a natural advantage, to protect the gains we have made.'

Doctors' leaders have warned that the NHS faces its most challenging winter ever, as circulation of flu and other viruses is expected to return alongside COVID-19 infections.

The government said last week it was too early to talk about a flu vaccine shortage after delivery of vaccine from the UK's largest supplier was delayed, forcing practices to cancel their first wave of planned flu clinics.

GP practices are rolling out the largest flu vaccination programme in history this year - after delivering more than three quarters of the 78m doses of COVID-19 vaccine adminstered so far in England.

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