COVID booster jabs will be given to all over-50s this autumn to head off a virus resurgence, under the latest NHS plans.
September’s rollout was originally only set to include Brits aged 65-plus or with a serious health condition, pregnant women and health and care workers.
But health chiefs have told doctors to prepare for a bigger scheme which would nearly double the number of eligible people from 17.9million to 32m.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the Financial Times: “That doesn’t mean to say it’s going to be over-50s but I always want to be prepared.”
He added that it was “highly unlikely” the offer will expand again to include all adults.
The autumn top-up shot will be the fifth dose for people in the main priority groups and the sixth for those who are extremely vulnerable.
Lower-risk under-50s have been offered three jabs and will likely not get another.
NHS bosses wrote to doctors on Thursday telling them to get ready to re-vaccinate all priority groups – half the UK population – in the “maximum scenario".
They said: “Winter will remain the season when the threat from Covid-19 is greatest both for individuals and for health communities.”
If the rollout goes ahead for all priority groups, these people will be eligible for another vaccine:
- Older adult care home residents and staff
- Frontline NHS staff and care workers
- Everyone over the age of 50, regardless of health status
- Pregnant women
- All over-16s with eligible underlying health conditions
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Infection rates are surging again now, driven on by waning immunity and new Omicron strains called BA.4 and BA.5 which spread faster.
Covid hospital admissions in England have doubled in the past fortnight from 577 on June 7 to 1,155 on Tuesday.
A million older Brits are this week being urged to get their spring booster jab as the hospitalisations continue to rise.
More than four million people have had their fourth shot – but around a million over-75s and high-risk Brits are still eligible.
Delaying the third dose could push back the critical autumn shot as there has to be a minimum of three months between doses.
NHS Medical Director Professor Sir Stephen Powis said: “The recent rise in covid infection levels in England acts as a timely reminder that it is crucial those who are eligible come forward for their spring jab and get themselves protected.
“I would urge anyone who hasn’t to get their spring jab as soon as possible.”