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Who is eligible for Covid and flu winter booster jabs? Rollout brought forward

JCVI chairman Professor Sir Andrew Pollard said ’20 years of homework’ on coronaviruses speeded up the development of Covid-19 vaccines (Danny Lawson/PA) (Danny Lawson / PA Wire)
JCVI chairman Professor Sir Andrew Pollard said ’20 years of homework’ on coronaviruses speeded up the development of Covid-19 vaccines (Danny Lawson/PA) (Danny Lawson / PA Wire)

The Government has confirmed that this year’s Covid-19 vaccine and flu jab rollout will be launched earlier than planned.

The announcement comes after a new Covid variant, known as BA.2.86, was detected for the first time in the UK earlier this week.

Following advice from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), the rollout will now start in September instead of October.

Each year, millions of people benefit from receiving their winter jabs ahead of the colder season. Amid news of a new covid variant, some people will want to know how to get the Covid-19 and flu jab.

So, here’s what you need to know about the jab rollout and when you might be eligible.

Why is the winter vaccine programme being brought forward?

The NHS winter flu and Covid-19 vaccination programme is designed to offer extra protection for eligible people over winter when the likelihood of developing a serious illness is higher. The Government hopes that the rollout can also help minimise hospitalisations during busier periods.

As a result of the new variant, and following expert advice, authorities decided to bring the rollout forward. The country detected its first case of the new variant on September 18, in an individual who had no recent travel history.

The hope is that an early rollout can provide greater protection to people at risk. Dame Jenny Harries, UKHSA chief executive, said: “As we continue to live with Covid-19, we expect to see new variants emerge.

“Thanks to the success of our vaccine programme, we have built strong, broad immune defences against new variants throughout the population. However, some people remain more vulnerable to severe illness from Covid-19.”

When will the Covid and flu jab rollout start?

The national Covid-19 and flu booster rollout will start from September 11, 2023.

Millions of eligible people will be invited to get the jabs in the weeks following this date.

The Government aims to vaccinate as many eligible people across the UK before the end of October.

Speeding up the schedule would deliver greater protection, particularly for those at greatest risk of severe illness, experts say (Peter Byrne / PA)
Speeding up the schedule would deliver greater protection, particularly for those at greatest risk of severe illness, experts say (Peter Byrne / PA)

Who is eligible for the winter Covid vaccine?

According to the latest NHS guidance, a number of groups will receive priority for the new Covid and flu rollout programme. Wherever possible, healthcare providers with offer both the flu and Covid-19 vaccines.

Those eligible for an autumn Covid-19 vaccine are:

  • Residents in a care home for older adults

  • All adults aged 65 years and over

  • People aged six months to 64 years in a clinical risk group

  • Frontline health and social care workers

  • People aged 12 to 64 who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression

  • People between the ages of 16 to 64 who are carers and staff working in care homes for older adults

Those eligible for a flu vaccine this year include:

  • People aged 65 years and over

  • Those aged six months to under 65 years in clinical risk groups

  • Pregnant women

  • All children aged two or three by August 31, 2023

  • School-aged children (from Reception to Year 11)

  • Those in long-stay residential care homes

  • Carers in receipt of carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person

  • Close contacts of immunocompromised individuals

  • Frontline workers in a social care setting without an employer-led occupational health scheme, including those working for a registered residential care or nursing home, registered domiciliary care providers, voluntary managed hospice providers, and those who are employed by those who receive direct payments (personal budgets) or Personal Health budgets, such as personal assistants.

The rollout will prioritise people in order of risk. The rollout will first focus on care home residents and people who are immunosuppressed before the programme is offered to other eligible people.

How to sign up for a Covid and flu jab appointment

People eligible for the Covid-19 and flu jabs should wait to receive an invite from their local health service before getting their vaccine.

The NHS will start to send out invites from September 18, in order of risk.

Invitees can then make adult flu and Covid-19 appointments through the NHS App and website, or by calling 119. People will also be able to access the flu vaccine at their local GP practices and pharmacy.

Can I still get the jab if I’m ineligible for the Government booster?

Only people over the age of 65 or in an at-risk group will be offered the latest Covid-19 booster.

As the Covid-19 vaccine isn’t privately available, it means that people who don’t fall into these categories won’t currently be able to get the winter top-up or pay for it themselves.

Last year, all people over the age of 50 were offered both jabs as part of a robust government programme. However, this year, eligibility has been scaled back. Although the Covid-19 jab isn’t privately available, the flu jab is.

A number of pharmacies across the UK, such as Boots, provide private flu jabs to those who can’t access the free government programme. Eligibility restrictions may apply and people will need to pay for the service.