The rollout of booster jabs to older adults and some of the most vulnerable members of the community is due to start next week, boosting immunity to COVID-19 for tens of thousands of people this coming winter.
The operation will be on a similar scale to delivery of the first phase of COVID-19 vaccinations in January this year, continuing the biggest mass vaccination programme ever undertaken in the Isle of Man. Boosters are given from six months after an individual’s second dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
The Pfizer (Comirnaty) and Moderna (Spikevax) vaccines will be offered to all people in the booster programme, in line with professional advice that mRNA vaccines provide a strong booster effect, regardless of which vaccine brand someone received for their primary doses. The exceptions will be where mRNA vaccines cannot be offered, for example due to allergies, in which case the AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria) vaccine will be offered for those who received it previously. It will not be possible to offer individuals a choice of vaccine.
The first stage of the booster rollout has seen COVID-19 booster jabs offered to health and care workers at drop-in sessions at the Chester Street hub, operating over two weekends and weekday evenings. Many staff have had a seasonal flu jab at the same time, boosting their own immunity against both viruses and protecting their families, those they care for and the wider community.
From Monday 4 October it will be the turn of adults aged 70 and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals to have their booster jab, which will be given at their GP surgery or at the Chester Street hub. Those attending their GP surgery may also be offered a flu jab.
Participating GP practices have contacted patients by letter, email or text inviting them to make an appointment at the surgery. Patients whose GP practices are not offering COVID-19 boosters will receive an appointment letter from 111 to attend Chester Street, which will arrive in due course.
The Manx Care community nursing team will visit care homes for older adults to vaccinate residents, while carers and staff will have their booster at the care home or the Chester Street hub – where they will also be offered a flub jab. The community vaccine team will also provide boosters at home for the housebound and offer flu vaccines at the same time.
Health and Social Care Minister David Ashford said:
‘We are confident there will be good take-up of booster vaccines, which will increase people’s immunity during the autumn and winter months. It is not yet clear how big a third wave of COVID-19 might be, but it is inevitable we will see an increase in cases when we spend more time mixing with others indoors.
‘There are positive signs that the immunity offered by our first two Covid jabs will continue to protect us from severe illness, but we should do everything we can to avoid needing to go into hospital, and to protect our health services at their busiest time of year. If you are offered a flu jab as well as a Covid booster one the same occasion, having both is safe and practical – but have either vaccine at the earliest opportunity.’
Booster vaccinations will be offered to adults aged between the ages of 50 and 70 from early November, once a six months have passed since their second primary dose. Residents in this age band should wait for their appointment letters, which will arrive in due course.
Adults aged over 50 can now book a flu vaccination through their GP Practice or at any participating community pharmacy in the Island. Booking a flu jab now would be a positive step for those some weeks away from having their top-up Covid jab.
The rollout of boosters is a complex logistical exercise involving deployment of nursing and admin staff in hubs and the community, careful monitoring of vaccine supply, extensive data governance, fresh consent processes, tasking of the 111 team to administer appointments, and a raft of detailed paperwork to ensure the legal and compliant provision of booster vaccines.
Newly arrived residents who received their primary COVID vaccinations outside the Isle of Man can have their booster in the Island - when they are eligible and at least six months has passed since their second vaccine dose. These residents should email 111 (email@example.com) with evidence of their vaccination status to register for the booster programme, and will be offered a booster with their age cohort.