First Covid booster jabs given to NHS staff

The first Covid booster vaccines have been given to NHS staff in England and Wales as part of plans to extend protection for millions this winter.

Jabs will be offered to the over 50s, health and care workers and younger adults with certain health conditions.

Those eligible should receive a booster at least six months after their second dose.

One dose of Pfizer or half a dose of Moderna is recommended and people will be contacted when it’s their turn.

But many people with severely weakened immune systems, who have been told they need a third dose to top up their primary protection, are still waiting to be invited.

NHS England said all those eligible, including people with blood cancer or organ donor recipients, would be contacted soon and stressed that the timing of the third dose was crucial.

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“So far I haven’t caught Covid and I want to keep it that way. But also with the vaccine, if I was to get Covid, I wouldn’t be seriously ill.”

Hospital hubs in England and Wales can now start vaccinating frontline healthcare workers with boosters, although most will not be ready to do so until next week.

Some care homes are starting the rollout on Thursday in England, this weekend in Wales and in Scotland on Monday. Northern Ireland begins its booster programme later this month.

‘I’ve been waiting for my booster’

Catherine Cargill, a maternity support worker and student at Croydon University Hospital, was one of the first to receive a booster jab.

“I’m excited, I’ve been waiting for this,” she said.

“So far I haven’t caught Covid and I want to keep it that way. But also with the vaccine, if I was to get Covid, I wouldn’t be seriously ill.”

Dr Chris Blakeley, an A&E consultant, says he’s seeing rising numbers of Covid patients and it’s likely his immunity is waning after receiving his first vaccine dose back in December.

“The booster gives us increasing confidence on a daily basis,” he said.

The government’s vaccine advisors said protection from the first two doses of all Covid vaccines showed early signs of dipping, and that the most vulnerable groups were particularly at risk.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said a booster programme, to run alongside a flu vaccine rollout, was a precautionary approach to ensure these groups maintained high levels of protection.


A nurse vaccinates healthcare workers at Croydon University Hospital


Who is eligible for a Covid booster jab?

Groups covered by the programme include:

  • those living in residential care homes for older adults
  • all adults aged 50 years or over
  • frontline health and social care workers
  • all those aged 16 to 49 years with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe Covid-19, and adult carers
  • adults who live in the same house as people who are immunosuppressed

Care home residents, who are one of the groups most vulnerable to the virus, will be offered a vaccine before the start of November in England.

Around 4.5 million people in priority groups will be eligible for a booster over the coming weeks, NHS England says, with a further 25 million to be contacted in due course. Pharmacies, GP practices and local vaccination centres will start offering boosters in the coming days.

People will get a call or text from their local GP-led site to get the jab, or will be invited by the National Booking Service, which will start issuing invitations from early next week.

Some people who were in the original nine priority groups will not be invited for a booster until the new year.

Meanwhile, care home providers say they are concerned that a deadline for all care home staff in England to have their first vaccine against Covid by 11 November could force care homes to close if staff decide not to comply.

On Monday, the UK’s four chief medical officers recommended a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine should be offered to all healthy 12-15 year olds, and the rollout is planned to start in schools next week.

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