Covid vaccine: Millions to receive third jab – when will I be called up to receive it?

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There has been much speculation and debate around the value of administering a third dose of a coronavirus vaccine before the winter. Now it appears that question has been settled. Third COVID-19 booster jabs are set to start being administered to the elderly and vulnerable if immunity wanes.

However, officials have not ruled out a potential ‘mix and match’ vaccine schedule following data that suggests it may confer greater protection.

It will operate in tandem with the annual influenza inoculation programme, which health officials say will be vital this winter amid warnings of a difficult flu season.

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The interim advice has been drawn up to ensure the NHS is prepared for any possible booster campaign in the autumn, while officials await more data on whether a third jab will be needed.

Ministers are expected to make a form decision on whether to press ahead with the campaign in the coming weeks.

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Newly appointed Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he “welcomed” the new guidance, which could “help us ensure we are ready in our preparations for autumn”.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, said it would keep Britain on the “front foot” in the fight against Covid.

JCVI sources said data suggested Covid jabs induce immunity that lasts for at least six months in the “majority” of cases, but there are fears this could fade later in the year which could trigger a spike in hospitalisations and deaths.

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It comes after Oxford University trial studying the efficacy of booster doses suggested a third shot six months after the second stimulates a robust immune response that’s similar to peak immunity.

The study found that giving people a third dose more than six months after their second led to a substantial rise in antibodies and increased the body’s T-cell ability to fight coronavirus, including its variants.

Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said it is not yet known whether people will need a booster shot in the autumn but the new data suggests administering the existing vaccine could be effective.

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He said real-world data from Public Health England (PHE) has already shown that two doses offer good protection against hospital admission and death from the Alpha Kent variant and the Delta variant first identified in India.

With two doses currently preventing more than 90 percent of hospital admissions with Covid, he said it is “difficult to say” conclusively whether a third dose could add a few more percent.

But he said: “Boosters are much more about if protection gets lost over time – and we don’t know that – but if it does, could you boost? And the answer to that from these data is yes, you could.

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“There’s no indication today that we need boosters, and it is something where we need to keep looking at the data and make decisions as the months go by, about whether that protection that we have is lost.”

He noted that experts will “expect to see immunity start to wane over time because that does happen” but it will not go back “down to zero”.

He added: “Our immune systems are a bit too clever for us to just look at those numbers… the immune system remembers that we’ve been vaccinated and so, even if we meet the virus some months later, the immune system remembers it, will kick in and make stronger immune responses again and hopefully that will protect most people from severe disease.”

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