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Booster vaccination rollout ramps up against new Covid variant

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The COVID-19 booster vaccination programme is to be expanded in the Island to increase defences for individuals and the population against the Omicron variant, following a change in advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. 

The move will see booster jabs offered to all adults from the age of 18, with the rollout continuing in age order giving priority to older adults and those in Covid-19 at-risk groups. In addition, boosters will shortly be offered from three months after an individual’s second dose.

Boosters are currently recommended for adults aged 40 and over, frontline health and care workers and people with certain health conditions. The decision to make boosters available to all adults follows the latest recommendation from the JCVI which has today been accepted by the UK Government and announced in the Commons by the UK Secretary of State of Sajid Javid.

The updated approach is in response to the emergence of the Omicron variant, to increase protection against infection and serious disease. Evidence about the effectiveness of vaccines against the variant is still being gathered, but it is thought the higher levels of antibodies produced by vaccines will continue to offer some level of immunity. Increasing that immunity through boosters, to reduce serious illness, hospitalisations and deaths is driving the booster programme changes.

In addition to extending the booster rollout, the Island is to follow the JCVI’s advice on increasing protection for children and young people aged 12 -15 with the offer of a second dose at a minimum 12 weeks after the first dose. Those aged 16-17 years are also to be offered a second dose, at an interval of at least eight weeks, while people in the immune-suppressed group who have had their third dose of vaccine, will get a booster after three months.

Minister for Health and Social Care Lawrie Hooper MHK said:

‘We will learn more in the weeks ahead about how transmissible the Omicron variant is and how severe its symptoms are. But we know that the vaccines used in the booster programme substantially increase antibody levels when given as a booster dose - and that vaccination remains our most important line of defence.'

Minister Hooper added:

‘Extending the booster programme is a substantial undertaking requiring additional resources, and teams in DHSC and Manx Care are working extremely hard to organise this, to ensure as many people as possible are protected with a booster jab. Having a booster will increase your defences against coronavirus, remembering that the Delta variant remains by far the most dominant in our community. I urge everyone to take up the offer of a booster and attend the appointment you are given – to protect yourself, your family and our health services.’

The changes will be implemented once the necessary protocols and paperwork have been received from the UK, and in the meantime the current programme will continue. Operational plans to extend the booster rollout in descending age order are being prepared, and the public are asked not to call 111 asking for their booking to be changed while the schedule is reworked. More information on this, and the offer of second doses to 12-17 year olds, will be announced soon.

Extending the booster programme to all adults will take the number of people in the population eligible for a booster from 50,400 to 62,170.