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Covid booster jabs for under 50s will only be available until Sunday, February 12 before NHS offer is withdrawn





There are just a few days left for people under the age of 50 to claim a free Covid booster jab before the offer by the NHS will be withdrawn.

As the country continues to scale back its response to the pandemic, which is nearing its three-year anniversary this March, the NHS has declared that Sunday, February 12 will be the last day people aged 16 to 49 will be able to ensure they've a full set of coronavirus vaccines.

Vaccination centres are open this week ahead of Sunday's deadline
Vaccination centres are open this week ahead of Sunday's deadline

After Sunday, vaccination centres will no longer be open to adults aged 49 and under and instead Covid-19 booster jabs will be reserved for those felt to be at risk of serious illness - in line with recommendations by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

The JCVI, which has already suggested health officials consider another autumn vaccination campaign later this year for those most at risk of complications as well as a potential spring campaign for the most vulnerable, is also proposing ministers withdraw the offer of all initial vaccinations to healthy five to 49-year-olds from next year.

While the government has yet to make a decision on that particular proposal, the JCVI believes if the pandemic continues to move in the right direction the offer of free immunisations for all could be withdrawn in favour of more targeted approaches to protect those who continue to be most at risk from the virus or complications it causes.

The vaccination programme first started in December 2020
The vaccination programme first started in December 2020

Close to 3,000 vaccination sites are said to be open this week to offer booster jabs to anyone under 50 yet to take up the offer with an estimated 391,000 appointments available this week.

Since the start of the pandemic 144.5 million coronavirus vaccine doses have been delivered across Britain - with 17 million people taking up a booster last winter.

At the height of the pandemic proof of Covid vaccination was required to travel to many countries abroad and enter entertainment venues such as theatres, restaurants and cinemas but these restrictions have also been significantly scaled back both in the UK and worldwide in the last 18 months.

Proof of a Covid-19 vaccination used to be required to enter particular venues. Image: iStock.
Proof of a Covid-19 vaccination used to be required to enter particular venues. Image: iStock.

While coronavirus case numbers have dropped significantly since the outbreak's peak - supported by the vaccination programme - health experts warn case numbers are currently rising again possibly driven by new Omicron sub variant XBB.1.5.

With testing also having been scaled back in many countries over the last year, the true number of cases connected to this new variant could be hard to determine but those studying XBB.1.5 believe it has an unusual mutation helping it spread and making it harder for the antibodies people have gained from either vaccination or a previous Covid-19 vaccination to successfully attack the virus.

Covid cases are currently on the rise again, possibly driven by a new variant able to evade people's immunity. Image: Stock photo.
Covid cases are currently on the rise again, possibly driven by a new variant able to evade people's immunity. Image: Stock photo.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said: "It’s concerning that the recent downward trend in COVID-19 hospitalisations has started to show signs of a reverse this week. Older people are still at the highest risk of being hospitalised for COVID-19, so it’s vital those eligible get their autumn/winter booster jab – come forward before Sunday 12 February when the offer comes to an end. It will top up your immunity and keep you protected.

"Two variants, CH.1.1 and XBB.1.5, have a growth advantage in the UK and we can expect further increases in transmission and hospitalisations in future weeks.

"There are simple actions we can all take to prevent viruses spreading. Washing your hands regularly, catching coughs and sneezes in tissues and if possible letting fresh air into rooms and spaces will all help. If you or your child is unwell please don’t visit vulnerable people, and try to stay at home. If you do have to go out when you’re unwell, consider wearing a face covering which can help prevent you passing viruses on."



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