Fears over new Covid variant sees flu and booster programme brought in early

Coronavirus: WHO share update on EG.5 COVID-19 variant

The Covid booster jab programme has been brought forward four weeks early amid growing concerns over the new variant detected in England on August 18. 

While scientists are yet to classify it as a “variant of concern”, the high number of mutations mean health experts are urging vulnerable people to get boosted. 

This afternoon the Government urged eligible people to come forward for their booster jab “as soon as they’re invited”. 

The move to shore up Brits’ immune systems comes as a “precautionary measure”, as UK scientists from the Health Security Agency (UKHSA) examine the new BA.2.86 variant. 

Yesterday, Dr Hillary Jones has now warned that we could be facing “another wave”, with growing hospitalisations. 

He warned Brits to “be careful”, as the Omicron sub-variant spreads following its WHO classification on August 9. 

Announcing the news, Health Minister Maria Caulfield said the move “makes sense”. 

“As our world-leading scientists gather more information on the BA.2.86 variant, it makes sense to bring forward the vaccination programme.

“It is absolutely vital the most vulnerable groups receive a vaccine to strengthen their immunity over winter to protect themselves and reduce pressure on the NHS.

“I encourage anyone invited for a vaccination – including those yet to have their first jab – to come forward as soon as possible.”

Dame Jenny Harries added that some Brits remain “more vulnerable to sever illness from COVID-19”, and that the precautionary measure will allow them to ensure people have protection “against any potential wave this winter”. 

Dame Jenny added: “There is limited information available at present on BA.2.86 so the potential impact of this particular variant is difficult to estimate. As with all emergent and circulating COVID-19 variants – both in the UK and internationally – we will continue to monitor BA.2.86 and to advise government and the public as we learn more”.

“In the meantime, please come forward for the vaccine when you are called.”

The vaccination campaign was previously due to commence in early October, as it’s thought providing a shorter gap between a booster shot and any potential winter wave is better for immunity. 

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) for this autumn is to offer the jab to those at high risk of serious disease from COVID-19, including: 

  • Residents in a care home for older adults
  • All adults aged 65 years and over
  • Persons aged 6 months to 64 years in a clinical risk group 
  • Frontline health and social care workers
  • Persons aged 12 to 64 who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression
  • Persons aged 16 to 64 and are carers and staff working in care homes for older adults

Those in clinical risk groups include: chronic respiratory disease, chronic heart disease and vascular disease, chronic kidney disease, chronic neurological disease, diabetes mellitus and other endocrine disorders, and immunosuppression. 

Adults in care homes and those most at risk will receive the vaccines first, with NHS England to announce the full details of the accelerated roll-out soon. 

Dr Johannes Uys, a GP at Broadgate General Practice has explained the main signs of the new Covid variant include a sore throat, a runny or blocked nose, sneezing, a cough without phlegm, a headache, a hoarse voice, and/or muscle aches and pains.

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