CENTRAL DEVON MP and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Mel Stride is urging eligible constituents to take up the offer of a Covid-19 booster jab this autumn.

This year’s autumn flu and Covid-19 vaccine programmes are starting earlier than planned in England as a precautionary measure following the identification of a new Covid variant.

The variant, BA.2.86, was first detected in the UK last month and researchers have discovered that it has a high number of mutations and has appeared in several countries in individuals without travel history.

It is not currently classified as a variant of concern, advice from the UKHSA (UK Health and Security Agency) suggests that speeding up the autumn vaccine programme will deliver greater protection, supporting those at greatest risk of severe illness and reducing the potential impact on the NHS.

Vaccinations for those most at risk have now started and those eligible include adult care home residents and people who are immunosuppressed.

The NHS also started to invite people in priority order of risk on Monday (September 18) and those eligible will be able to book an appointment on the National Booking Service.

People eligible for an autumn Covid booster include residents in care homes for older adults, all adults aged 65 years and over, people aged 6 months to 64 years in a clinical risk group, frontline health and social care workers, people aged 12 to 64 years who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression and people aged 16 to 64 years who are carers and staff working in care homes for older adults.

Mr Stride said: “Vaccinations have been scientifically proven to significantly reduce the likelihood of becoming seriously ill with Covid-19 if you catch it. The best way to protect yourself, your loved ones and to ease pressure on our NHS this winter is to get vaccinated this autumn if you are eligible.”

The Government website explains that those eligible for the vaccine should be offered an appointment between September and December. Those at highest risk will be called in first. Those eligible for a flu jab may be able to get both vaccinations at the same time.

The vaccine given will be made by Pfizer, Moderna or Sanofi and are updated forms of the vaccines used in previous campaigns and will also produce higher levels of antibodies against some strains of omicron.

Government data has shown that people who received an autumn booster vaccine last year were around 53 per cent less likely to go to the hospital with Covid in the two to four weeks after getting vaccinated, compared to those who didn’t get a booster.

For more information, visit: www.healthmedia.blog.gov.uk/2023/08/08/covid-autumn-booster-vaccine-2023-everything-you-need-to-know/