NHS rollout of second Covid booster jabs begins in England

Offer of top-up dose to over-75s, care home residents and those who are immunocompromised follows JCVI advice last month

Denis Campbell Health policy editor

The NHS in England will on Monday start giving a second booster vaccine to millions of people who are at higher risk from Covid-19 to help combat the latest resurgence in infections.

Over-75s, care home residents and those who are immunocompromised – 5 million in all – will be contacted by the NHS and then be able to book an appointment online or by calling 119.

The new rollout of booster jabs comes after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised the government last month that those three at-risk groups should be offered a top-up because the immunity from their first booster was waning.

Cases of Covid are rising again, with 90,349 cases recorded on Friday across the UK, according to official figures, more than double the 39,000 seen on 1 March. However, the true number of infections is higher. The Office for National Statistics estimates that one in 20 people in England had Covid in the week up to 12 March.

The number of people in UK hospitals with Covid had risen to 14,671 by last Thursday.

Experts believe the increase is linked to people spending more time at their work premises, greater socialisation in bars and other venues and the lifting of restrictions.

Provision of the second boosters began in Scotland on 7 March and in Wales last week. England will follow suit from Monday when several hundred sites – including high street pharmacies, vaccination centres and hospitals – start delivering the jabs.

Dr Nikki Kanani, a GP who is the deputy lead for the NHS vaccination programme, said: “Sadly, we are still seeing large numbers of people seriously unwell in hospital with Covid, so it remains vital that those most at risk come forward when they are invited to do so.”

Ruth Rankine, the director of primary care at the NHS Confederation, which represents groups of GP surgeries, also urged those who are eligible to get their top-up. “As we learn to live with Covid-19, and in the face of the new dominant BA.2 variant, we must use all the tools in our arsenal, of which vaccination has been the most important,” she said.

When the JCVI recommended the spring booster programme last month to protect the most vulnerable, the committee said it would also set out advice on an autumn top-up campaign, but gave no details.

Sajid Javid, the health secretary, hinted last week that it would encompass many more people than those covered by the spring campaign. “[The JCVI’s] most recent advice is that they think that towards the end of this year, maybe in the autumn, there will be a need to give a lot more people a boost,” he said.

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