'Variant-busting' booster jabs to be rolled out this September

By Jessica Durston - 19 August 2022

CommunityHealth

The NHS plans to roll out 'variant-busting' bivalent vaccine from this September, ahead of winter.

The NHS will become the first healthcare system in the world to use the next generation, bivalent covid vaccine, when it kickstarts the autumn booster rollout in early September. 

Following the updated advice from the JCVI on Monday 15 August, the NHS has now set out plans for the next phase of the covid-19 vaccination programme - what is deemed the largest and fastest vaccine drive in health service history. 

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: "The NHS was the first healthcare system in the world to deliver a covid-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials, and will now be the first to deliver the new, variant-busting vaccine when the rollout begins at the start of September.

"Our fantastic NHS staff have worked incredibly hard to deliver126 million doses to date and behind the scenes they have once again been preparing to deliver the latest phase with the same speed and precision as we have had throughout the rollout. 

"When the time comes, I would strongly encourage anyone who is invited to take up both an autumn booster and flu jab, to do so as quickly as possible - it will give you maximum protection this winter." 

Set to start during the week of 5 September, NHS staff will begin vaccinating care home residents and people who are housebound.

The National Booking Service will also open that week ahead of the wider rollout, due to start on the 12 September, with the NHS inviting those who are most susceptible to serious illness from covid-19 and those aged 75 and over to book an appointment from that week.

Extensive planning for the rollout is said to already be underway and local areas have already booked adult care home residents in for their vaccine to ensure they can get protected at the earliest opportunity.

As with the NHS' previous campaigns, the oldest and most vulnerable will be called forward first, with people able to book in online or through 119 for as long as it has been three months since their last dose. 

The NHS will continue to advise local sites to allow immunosuppressed patients to self-declare and attend walk-ins to make getting the extra protection as easy as possible. 

Around 26 million people across England will be eligible for an autumn booster in line with guidance set out by the JCVI.

It is said that as many as 3,000 sites are expected to be part of the rollout, including GP practices and community pharmacies, with new sites joining the programme all of the time. 

The autumn booster campaign is among a package of NHS measures to prepare for winter, including ramping up bed capacity, and increasing the number of 999 and NHS 111 staff to deal with any additional pressure. 

More than 126 million covid vaccines have been administered by NHS staff and volunteers since the first covid-19 jab was delivered outside of clinical trials to Maggie Keenan in Coventry, in December 2020.

Well over four in five eligible people were said to have received a spring booster earlier this year, and the NHS urged those people to get that dose before the end of July, in order to ensure enough time had passed to optimise the protection an autumn booster would provide over winter. 

The NHS says it will offer people the new next generation bivalent vaccine where appropriate and subject to sufficient supply being made available to the NHS. 

The JCVI and MHRA have stressed that the original vaccines also continue to provide great protection and people should come forward regardless of vaccine offered. 

Rachel Pearce, Director of Commissioning for NHS England South West said: “As we move in to the next phase of the covid-19 vaccination programme, we will be encouraging people who are eligible to get their Autumn booster vaccination, to build their immunity from covid-19 and keep them safe this winter”.

“We are vaccinating the residents in our care homes across the South West to ensure they are protected, as well as prioritising our staff that work across Health and Social Care to reduce the spread of the virus.”

NHS director for vaccinations and screening Steve Russell said: "This winter will be the first time we see the real effects of both covid and flu in full circulation as we go about life as normal - and so it is vital that those most susceptible to serious illness from these viruses come forward for the latest jab in order to protect themselves.

“We know that our GPs and community pharmacies have been integral to the success of the NHS Vaccination Programme due to their locations and relationships with local communities, and so it is fantastic that so many have opted to be part of the latest phase of the campaign. 

"The NHS will contact you when it is your turn to get an autumn booster and will be inviting the first people outside of a care home to book in ahead of the rollout early September - please book in as quickly as possible when invited to give yourself protection this winter."

The NHS will contact people when it is their turn to book in for the vaccine - individuals do not need to contact the NHS. 

The NHS will also being rolling out the flu vaccine and encouraging eligible people to take up the offer from the first of the month where possible.

Eligible individuals may be offered the flu and covid jab at the same time, with the doses approved to be co-administered. 

Local systems will aim to roll the flu jab out in a way that works best for them. 

Health and social care staff will also be eligible to get the autumn booster in line with JCVI guidance. In order to ensure NHS staff are protected, all providers are being asked to ensure their staff are offered the autumn jab, co-administering with the flu jab where possible.

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