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Millions of over-50s could be given THIRD Covid jab from September

Tens of millions of Britons could be offered a third Covid jab in as little as two months under fresh guidance issued by No10’s top advisers tonight.

The Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) said the booster scheme should start in September and could see 23million over-50s, vulnerable Britons and NHS and care home staff offered another dose.

Extra vaccines would be rolled out in two stages — prioritising those most at risk of Covid — with patients offered whichever jab they were originally inoculated with.

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

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 decision on whether to go ahead with the programme in the coming weeks.

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’.

And 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 spark 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.

An Oxford University trial looking at booster doses suggested a third shot six months after the second could restore peak immunity against Covid.

It comes after Professor Chris Whitty reportedly told a Cabinet meeting yesterday that England is on course to lift the remaining Covid restrictions on July 19 ‘Freedom Day’. And Boris Johnson sounded increasingly bullish that restrictions would be lifted as planned at PMQs today saying Britain has ‘a higher wall of vaccination than virtually any other country in the world’.

The UK today recorded more than 20,000 cases for the third day in a row, but deaths from the virus continued to drop in a sure sign the vaccines are working. But scientists today warned England could face a spike in Covid cases in the coming weeks because of the Three Lions’ success at the Euro 2020s, although this is not expected to translate into a surge in hospitalisations and deaths.

Just one in 100 NHS beds were being taken up by Covid patients in England last week — fourteen times fewer than at the start of the second wave, according to official figures highlighting the power of the vaccines.

No10’s top scientists are considering a Covid ‘booster’ vaccination programme from September. Pictured: A woman receives her jab in Doncaster

Just one in 100 NHS beds are currently being taken up by Covid patients in England — fourteen times fewer than at the start of the second wave. Graph shows: The percentage of all hospital beds available to the NHS being taken up by Covid patients on June 22 this year (red bars) compared to on December 14 (blue bars), the last time infections were above 20,000 and rising

Just one in 100 NHS beds are currently being taken up by Covid patients in England — fourteen times fewer than at the start of the second wave. Graph shows: The percentage of all hospital beds available to the NHS being taken up by Covid patients on June 22 this year (red bars) compared to on December 14 (blue bars), the last time infections were above 20,000 and rising

The rate of growth in hospital admissions has been falling for the last nine days, despite hospitalisations continuing to rise

The rate of growth in hospital admissions has been falling for the last nine days, despite hospitalisations continuing to rise

In other Covid news:

  • Britain today recorded another 26,068 Covid cases but deaths dropped to 14 in a sure sign vaccines have broken the link between infections and severe disease; 
  • Thousands of Scottish Covid cases were linked to Euro 2020 today as its infections surged higher than in the second wave — amid fears the competition could also spark a surge in cases in England;
  • Education Secretary Gavin Williamson hinted school bubbles will be ditched from July 19 ‘Freedom Day’ after the number self-isolating at home quadrupled in a fortnight to 375,000;
  • Thousands of delighted Britons touched down in Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca after holiday destinations were moved to the UK’s ‘green’ list meaning no quarantine when they return home;
  • NHS Covid app forced pubs and restaurants to close after thousands of workers were sent home by Test and Trace amid soaring Covid cases in the UK.

The JCVI interim guidance published today sets out a booster programme that would proceed in two stages from September.

In the first part, more than 15million over-70s, care home residents and NHS and care home workers would be offered a third jab. And in the second stage this would be expanded to more than 17million over-50s and those who live with people who are vulnerable to the virus.

There are no plans to offer third jabs to younger age groups this winter because most will only have received their second dose by the end of summer, meaning they are likely to still have high antibody levels to combat the virus.

Over-30s were invited for their second doses on June 7, with over-18s also asked to come forward almost two weeks later. There is a gap of at least eight days between doses. 

Who could be first in line for a third jab? How will the vaccines be dished out? 

Millions of Britons could be offered a third Covid vaccine in September, No10’s top scientists have revealed.  

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s (JCVI) advice published tonight paves the way for the programme to go ahead.

But they have not recommended it takes place and say advice could ‘change substantially’ in the coming weeks.

Who could be offered a third Covid vaccine?

  • All over-50s
  • Frontline health and social care workers 
  • People who are vulnerable to the virus
  • Adults living with vulnerable people 

How might the booster programme work?

Should the ‘booster’ programme go ahead, it will see third doses dished out in two stages. 

In stage one third jabs will be offered to:

  • All over-70s
  • Over-16s who are vulnerable to the virus 
  • People living in care homes for older adults
  • Frontline health and social care workers 

And in stage two third jabs will be offered to:

  • All over-50s
  • Adults aged 16 to 49 who are vulnerable to flu
  • Adults living with suppressed individuals such as those receiving cancer treatment

NHS chiefs are already preparing for the programme to ensure they have enough jabs available should ministers give the green light to the plans. 

At least four other countries including the US are also considering booster programmes, but they are also yet to make a decision.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, the JCVI’s Covid chairman, said: ‘The JCVI’s interim advice is that, should a booster programme be required, a third Covid-19 vaccine dose should be offered to the most vulnerable first, starting from September 2021 to maximise individual protection and safeguard the NHS ahead of winter.

‘Almost all these people would also be eligible for the annual flu vaccine and are strongly advised to have the flu vaccine.

‘We will continue to review emerging scientific data over the next few months, including data relating to the duration of immunity from the current vaccines.’

He added that their final advice on the booster programme ‘may change substantially’. 

Professor Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, said scientists aimed to be on the ‘front foot’ in the fight against Covid. 

He said: ‘We want to be on the front foot for Covid booster vaccination to keep the probability of loss of vaccine protection due to waning immunity or variants as low as possible. Especially over the coming autumn and winter.

He also called on Britons to get their flu jabs, adding: ‘Fewer or no restrictions will mean that other respiratory viruses, particularly flu, will make a comeback and quite possibly be an additional problem this winter.

‘So we will need to ensure protection against flu as well as maintaining protection against Covid. 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said a booster programme will 'protect this freedom'

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said a booster programme will ‘protect this freedom’

Newly appointed Health Secretary Sajid Javid welcomed the interim advice, and said he ‘looked forward’ to receiving the committee’s final recommendation in the coming weeks. 

‘Our first Covid vaccination programme is restoring freedom in this country, and our booster programme will protect this freedom,’ he said.

‘We are working with the NHS to make sure we can rapidly deliver this programme to maintain protection for people in the winter months.’

Dr David Elliman, a consultant in child health who was not involved with the interim advice, said their recommendations could change substantially before September. 

‘The advice seems very sensible IF we are going to offer boosters to all adults,’ he told the Science Media Centre. 

‘However, that begs the question as to whether they are needed and, if so, should they be given. 

‘At the moment there is little clinical or laboratory evidence that boosters are needed and JCVI has understandably not committed itself yet. 

‘If a booster is needed, exactly how much benefit would it give and would it justify the resources?’

An Oxford University study involving 90 volunteers found a third dose may spark enhanced protection against Covid variants — which may be able to evade previous immunity.

Laboratory tests on 90 volunteers — aged 40 on average — found Covid-fighting antibody levels increased ‘significantly’ after the third dose compared to the second.

The researchers also recorded higher levels of T-cells — a type of white blood cell that plays a role in fighting off infections.

Its lead scientist Professor Andrew Pollard, who also helped develop the AstraZeneca vacine, said the third shot could be used if the South African ‘Beta’ variant — which makes vaccines less effective — starts to take off in the UK.

But he called on the Government to shelve plans to give Britons a third dose of the vaccine, pointing out that in many areas of the world people were still waiting to get their first jab. 

‘At this level of high protection in the UK, to give third doses now when others do not have first doses is not acceptable,’ he said. ‘We need to make sure other countries are protected.’ 

Britain secured 60million additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine in April, which it said would assist with any Covid booster programme.

This graph shows the number of cases recorded every day in Scotland (purple bars) by the date the test was taken. Experts say this is more reliable because it is not affected by fluctuations in the number of tests that can be processed daily. The graph also shows the daily average for the number of positive tests (green line). Scotland's cases are doubling every six days at the moment and are higher than the peak of the second wave

This graph shows the number of cases recorded every day in Scotland (purple bars) by the date the test was taken. Experts say this is more reliable because it is not affected by fluctuations in the number of tests that can be processed daily. The graph also shows the daily average for the number of positive tests (green line). Scotland’s cases are doubling every six days at the moment and are higher than the peak of the second wave

Scotland's Covid hospitalisations have remained flat, however, since cases began to rise (daily hospitalisations are the blue bars, and the average is the blue line). Just 32 people are being admitted to hospital in Scotland with the disease every day, which is almost double the amount last month but still low when compared to previous waves. For comparison, in the darkest days of January there were 195 admissions a day

Scotland’s Covid hospitalisations have remained flat, however, since cases began to rise (daily hospitalisations are the blue bars, and the average is the blue line). Just 32 people are being admitted to hospital in Scotland with the disease every day, which is almost double the amount last month but still low when compared to previous waves. For comparison, in the darkest days of January there were 195 admissions a day

Scotland's deaths have also remained flat (blue bars show the number of deaths every day, and the blue line shows the average). Scotland currently averages about two deaths a day, compared to 62 at the peak of the second wave

Scotland’s deaths have also remained flat (blue bars show the number of deaths every day, and the blue line shows the average). Scotland currently averages about two deaths a day, compared to 62 at the peak of the second wave

There are growing fears that England's Covid cases could follow the same trajectory as Scotland's following their 2-0 win against Germany yesterday. The above graph shows cases are already rising in the country (blue bars show the number of new cases a day, and the blue line shows the average)

There are growing fears that England’s Covid cases could follow the same trajectory as Scotland’s following their 2-0 win against Germany yesterday. The above graph shows cases are already rising in the country (blue bars show the number of new cases a day, and the blue line shows the average)

But, like in Scotland, England's hospitalisations are also still flat. The country is currently averaging around 200 a day, a slight rise from 186 last week. But this remains far below the peak of the second wave in January, when there were more than 3,500 hospitalisations a day. Vaccine-triggered immunity is keeping hospitalisations low

But, like in Scotland, England’s hospitalisations are also still flat. The country is currently averaging around 200 a day, a slight rise from 186 last week. But this remains far below the peak of the second wave in January, when there were more than 3,500 hospitalisations a day. Vaccine-triggered immunity is keeping hospitalisations low

England's deaths are also still flat-lining (blue bars show deaths by date of death, and the blue line shows the average). England is currently recording around 10 deaths a day, compared to more than a thousand in the darkest days of January

England’s deaths are also still flat-lining (blue bars show deaths by date of death, and the blue line shows the average). England is currently recording around 10 deaths a day, compared to more than a thousand in the darkest days of January

Gloomy SAGE adviser calls for Freedom Day to be delayed until children are jabbed 

A doomster SAGE adviser has called for all children to be vaccinated before the UK ditches its remaining lockdown curbs, despite hospitalisations and deaths remaining flat in the face of rising case numbers.

Britain is currently on track to give all adults at least one dose of the vaccine by the end of July, according to officials, but it could take three more months just to give one jab to the 14million under-18s in the UK.

The vaccine rollout is expected to drop to 150,000 first doses a day in the next few months because of shortages in the supply of Pfizer and Moderna’s jabs and because the AstraZeneca vaccine is not being given to young people.

Professor John Edmunds, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, insisted today that the ‘safest time’ to reopen fully would be after all children have had a jab.

The SAGE adviser, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said secondary school children at the very least have to have at least one jab before Britain can irreversibly leave lockdown.

He said without a nationwide rollout to children, there would continue to be ‘disruptions’ affecting children at school, including mass testing and bubbles, and a risk that pupils pass it to their parents and grandparents.

It comes after the UK recorded another 26,068 infections today — the highest daily total since January 24, when there were 30,004 cases — increasing 61.6 per cent in seven days from 16,135. Britain recorded 610 deaths on January 24, 44 times today’s fatalities. 

Department of Health bosses also posted just 14 deaths, falling 26.3 per cent on last Wednesday’s figure of 19, in a clear sign of the vaccine effect in the face of climbing cases.

The UK has breached 20,000 cases a day for the last three days, earlier seeing its previous highest figure since January on Monday, when it recorded 22,868 infections.

And fears are mounting that England’s Covid cases could spike in the coming weeks because of the Three Lions’ success at Euro 2020, after Scotland’s spiralling outbreak was linked to the tournament.

Scotland’s daily case numbers are doubling every week and public health chiefs have already linked nearly 2,000 infections to fans watching football matches — two-thirds of whom travelled to London to watch the crunch tie with England earlier this month.

Public Health Scotland revealed today that there were a record 3,887 positive tests in the last 24 hours, the highest number north of the border since the pandemic began.

There are now growing fears that England’s infection numbers will follow suit, particularly now that the national team have qualified for the final stages of the tournament.

Hundreds of thousands of Three Lions fans were seen celebrating in and around pubs across the country yesterday with scant regard for social distancing.

Experts told MailOnline that it is highly likely this will spark an uptick in cases in the coming days, which will only get worse the further the team progresses in the competition. The next game, against Ukraine, is on Saturday. 

Professor Lawrence Young, a virus expert and molecular oncologist at Warwick Medical School, told MailOnline: ‘You can’t help but let the whole thing be rather tinged with fears that this will result in a surge in infections. People are just letting their guard down and I think a degree of complacency is creeping in.’

But thanks to the highly successful vaccine rollout, the key metrics ministers will be looking at is hospitalisations and deaths – which have stayed flat even in Scotland as cases skyrocket.

Just 32 people are being admitted to hospital in Scotland with the disease every day, which is almost double the amount last month but still low when compared to previous waves. For comparison, in the darkest days of January there were 195 admissions a day.

Daily Covid hospitalisations are currently half of SAGE's forecasts fore June 22, which predicted there would be around 531 admissions a day

Daily Covid hospitalisations are currently half of SAGE’s forecasts fore June 22, which predicted there would be around 531 admissions a day

Just one in 100 NHS beds now taken up by Covid patients in England 

Just one in 100 NHS beds were being taken up by Covid patients in England last week — fourteen times fewer than at the start of the second wave, according to official figures that highlight the power of the vaccines.

MailOnline analysis of the latest NHS England figures show that out of the roughly 87,000 hospital beds at the health service’s disposal, fewer than 1,000 were being taken up by people suffering from coronavirus (1.1 per cent) on June 22.

The low inpatient numbers are made more impressive by the fact average daily infections have risen to more than 20,000 due to an outbreak of the ultra-infectious Indian variant.

Professor Chris Whitty told a meeting of the Cabinet yesterday that hospitals will be able to cope fine after Freedom Day.

The last time Britain was recording more than 20,000 daily cases and the outbreak was rising was in the second week of December, at the cusp of the second wave.

At that time one in six hospital beds across the health service in England (15 per cent) were being used by people struggling with the virus.

Now, even the worst hit region — the North West — is only seeing 2.4 per cent of its beds full with Covid patients. Covid occupancy is lowest in the South West, where fewer than one in 220 beds are occupied by people with the virus.

The NHS Covid app today sparked chaos for pubs and restaurants already hit by severe labour shortages, after thousands of staff were sent home by alerts telling them to self-isolate amid soaring case numbers — with bosses demanding a test and release scheme instead. 

Employees must stay at home for up to ten days after coming into contact with a positive case even if they test negative for Covid. Hospitality chiefs want this changed so that anyone who receives a negative result can go back to work.

A single Wetherspoons in Weston-super-Mare this week had 75 members of staff forced to stay at home after coming into contact with positive cases, while Hawksmoor steakhouse in London received 25 test and trace notifications within four weeks of reopening.

It comes as new figures revealed fewer people who contract the disease are falling badly ill, with just one in 100 NHS beds being taken up by Covid patients in England last week — fourteen times fewer than at the start of the second wave, according to official figures that highlight the power of the vaccines.

The low inpatient numbers are made more impressive by the fact average daily infections have risen to more than 20,000 due to an outbreak of the ultra-infectious Indian variant.

Small businesses are particularly struggling under the deluge of app notifications, with one restaurant in Liverpool revealing it lost a quarter of its workforce over the weekend on top of an existing labour shortage caused by Brexit and employees quitting over lockdown.

The nature of the NHS Covid app – which tells people to self-isolate if they have been in ‘close contact’ with someone who later tests positive – means hospitality staff walking around busy venues are particularly likely to receive notifications.

Close contact means being within two metres of a person who tested positive for the virus for 15 minutes or more or within one metre for one minute or more. 

Dave Critchley, executive chef and director at Lu Ban restaurant and bar in Liverpool, told MailOnline: ‘We lost five people over the weekend at minimal notice after they were pinged by the app.

‘When you are only a small business anyway losing five members of staff meant we had lost a quarter of our workforce.

‘It was already a monumental task to take on this year to make up all the money we lost from last year because we’ve still got last year’s rent and bills to pay.

‘And this is at a time when staff problems are the worst they’ve ever been because of Brexit and people going into different jobs during lockdown.’

Industry body UKHospitality is urging the government to change the rules so staff can return to work after a negative tests.

The rules currently require a period of 10 days self-isolation after the day of coming into contact with the positive case – regardless of whether they then test negative.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk