Preparations are well underway for rollout of the Isle of Man’s COVID-19 booster vaccination programme to protect older adults and the most vulnerable in the community this coming winter.
The UK Government this week accepted final advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) that booster jabs should be offered to all adults aged 50 and over to prevent severe illness caused by COVID-19, hospitalisation and deaths, and to protect the NHS.
The Isle of Man is to follow suit and the rollout to around 40,000 local residents who had their second dose of vaccine at least six months ago, will begin in the next few weeks, once essential documentation has been received from the UK.
The JCVI advises that having a booster will help maintain the high levels of protection offered by COVID vaccines for vulnerable adults throughout winter, and has recommended the following groups should be offered a third dose as soon as operationally practical:
- frontline health and care workers
- residents of care homes for older adults
- all adults aged 50 or over
- all those aged between 16 and 49 with underlying conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19, and adult carers
- household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals
The JCVI considered the risks posed by increasing levels of social mixing and close social contact during the winter season 2021/22, when COVID-19 will circulate with other respiratory viruses including seasonal influenza, and in view of the potential for infections from both viruses to peak at the same time.
The timing of the rollout is planned to maximise individual protection against severe illness and to prevent adding substantially to the winter pressures faced by health and care services.
In addition, the JCVI advises that where possible, seasonal flu vaccinations for those eligible can be given at the same time, with no loss in the immune response generated by either vaccine.
In line with JCVI advice, the mRNA vaccines Pfizer/BioNTech (Comirnaty®) and Moderna (Spikevax®) will be used in the booster programme, irrespective of which vaccine was used for the primary course. Where these cannot be used, the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine (Vaxzevria®) will be offered as an alternative.
The Island’s booster programme will be rolled out to eligible groups in largely the same order as in Phase 1 of the primary vaccination programme, with flexibility built in to maximise efficiency:
- Frontline health and care staff, including those working in care homes in the public and private sectors, will be invited to attend drop-in clinics at the Chester Street vaccination hub in Douglas and will have the opportunity to receive their Covid-19 booster and flu vaccine at the same time
- Adults aged between 50 and 69 and 16-64 year olds with underlying conditions will be sent an appointment letter inviting them to attend the Douglas hub for their booster. People in this group are advised to access seasonal flu vaccination via their GP or community pharmacy when stocks are available later this month
- Island GPs will invite adults aged 70 and over, clinically extremely vulnerable individuals and the immune-suppressed contacts group to attend their GP surgery for a booster. Seasonal flu jabs will be offered to these groups at the same time
- Residents aged over 70 who prefer to attend the hub for their booster should contact 111 to arrange a booking, noting that their flu jab will be given separately
- People living in residential homes and the housebound will be visited by Manx Care’s community vaccination team as they were during the initial rollout
It is important that the COVID-19 booster is given at least six months after the second vaccination. Anyone who is eligible for a booster but who had their second dose less than six months ago will be invited for a booster six months after their second dose.
The season flu vaccinations and COVID-19 booster jabs will provide increased immunity for vulnerable people during the winter months, helping prevent serious illness should they become infected with the virus. The vaccinations will be given separately and can be administered at the same appointment, where an individual is eligible for both and subject to supply. However, no one should delay having either vaccination at the earliest opportunity.
Recent advice from the JCVI recommended a third primary vaccination for people who are severely immune-compromised, and a review into whether this group should have a further booster will be held after completion of their three-dose vaccine course.