UK cuts booking time for COVID booster vaccines by a month

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November 06, 2021 5:21 PM

Protection against hospitalisation falls from 95 per cent to 75 percent for Oxford/AstraZeneca and 99 per cent to 90 per cent for Pfizer/BioNTech.

More than 9 million people have already received their top-up vaccines in England, intended to extend the protection from their first two doses over the winter months.More than 9 million people have already received their top-up vaccines in England, intended to extend the protection from their first two doses over the winter months.

The UK’s health service on Saturday announced a one-month slash in booking times for a top-up COVID-19 vaccine shot, inviting those aged 50 and over to book their booster jabs after a five-month gap from their second dose.

From Monday, the National Health Service (NHS) National Booking System will allow people to pre-book their booster appointment a month before they are eligible.
Everyone aged over 50 and all those classified as most at risk from COVID-19 should qualify for a booster six months after their second dose. Currently, they can only book an appointment at the six-month mark.

From next week, they will be able to book their appointment after five months, which means that someone could pre-book their jab for the day they reach the six-month milestone, rather than waiting days or weeks for a convenient appointment. It is expected to benefit millions of eligible people.
“COVID-19 vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and your family ahead of a challenging winter and this change to the booking system will make it as easy as possible for people to book their booster jabs,” said UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

“This will accelerate the booster programme, ensure the NHS is able to vaccinate people as quickly as possible, and importantly help more people maintain protection against COVID-19 as we know immunity will dip over time. Please do not delay – come and get the jab to keep the virus at bay,” he said.
More than 9 million people have already received their top-up vaccines in England, intended to extend the protection from their first two doses over the winter months.

The latest change to the booking system will further speed up the booster vaccine rollout. “The COVID-19 booster programme is making great progress – thank you to the NHS and everybody who has come forward so far to secure vital protection ahead of the winter,” said UK Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup, as she called on eligible categories to book their jabs.

The colder weather traditionally leads to increased transmission of viruses. Vaccines are found to give high levels of protection but immunity reduces over time, particularly for older adults and at-risk groups, therefore the NHS message is that it is vital that vulnerable people come forward to get their COVID-19 booster vaccine to top-up their defences and protect themselves this winter.

“While this winter is undoubtedly going to be different, the most important thing you can do is come forward for both your COVID booster and flu jab as soon as possible – now with the added convenience of booking in advance – making it even easier to protect yourself and loves ones,” said NHS national medical director Stephen Powis.

The latest evidence from the UK government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) shows that protection against symptomatic disease falls from 65 per cent, up to three months after the second dose, to 45 per cent six months after the second dose for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and from 90 per cent to 65 per cent for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Protection against hospitalisation falls from 95 per cent to 75 percent for Oxford/AstraZeneca and 99 per cent to 90 per cent for Pfizer/BioNTech.
The booster programme is designed to top up this waning immunity. Early results from Pfizer show that a booster following a primary schedule of the same vaccine restores protection back up to 95.6 per cent against symptomatic infection.

Last week, clinical guidance was updated to enable COVID-19 boosters to be given slightly earlier to those at highest risk, where this makes operational sense to do so, especially in elderly care home settings. It is also expected to help with other vulnerable groups, such as housebound patients, so that they can have their flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time.

The move comes as the UK’s daily coronavirus rates continue a downward trend, with 34,029 cases and 193 COVID-19 deaths registered on Friday – compared to 37,269 cases and 214 deaths the previous day.

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