By Alistair Smout
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s COVID-19 booster vaccine rollout is to be extended to people between 40 and 49 years old, officials said on Monday, in a bid to boost waning immunity in the population ahead of the colder winter months.
Currently all people other 50, those who are clinically vulnerable and frontline health workers are eligible for boosters, and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said that the rollout would be extended further.
The advice comes as the UK Health Security Agency released data from a real-world study which found the booster gave over 90% protection against symptomatic COVID-19 for people aged 50 years and older.
“Booster vaccine doses in more vulnerable adults, and second vaccine doses in 16–17 year olds are important ways to increase our protection against COVID-19 infection and severe disease,” said Wei Shen Lim, the JCVI’s Chair for COVID-19 immunisation.
“These vaccinations will also help extend our protection into 2022.”
Britain is mainly using the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots in the booster rollout, with people being eligible 6 months after their second shot.
The real-world study found that protection against symptomatic disease following a booster was 93.1% for people who were initially given AstraZeneca’s vaccine, and 94% for people who had been given the Pfizer shot originally.
The JCVI added that the protection given by boosters against severe disease was expected to be higher.
However, the panel declined to recommend boosters for under 40s, saying it had found no robust evidence of a decline in protection against severe COVID-19 from the original vaccine rollout in that age group.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is leaning on booster vaccines and shots for children to try and withstand winter pressures on hospitals without resorting to another COVID lockdown.
The JCVI also said that all 16 to 17 year olds would be invited to have their second dose of COVID vaccine, having previously advised that they only receive an initial shot unless they had an underlying health condition.
(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Kate Holton)