Covid booster jabs for over-50s 'can start immediately', says government expert

By Torcuil Crichton

Double jabs of flu and booster coronavirus vaccine can “start now”, one of the UK’s top medical officers has said.

In a message likely to be repeated by Nicola Sturgeon later today, the deputy chief medical officer for England said patients over 50 can begin receiving flu and booster coronavirus jabs simultaneously.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam told a Downing Street briefing: “Double jabs can start now, subject to the availability of both products. It is reported that the double-jab can be rolled out for over-70s first and that everyone over-50 can be boosted in time for Christmas.

Van-Tam told reporters that the data from trials on giving flu in one arm and Covid in the other at the same time gave good results.

He said: “The antibody response to both of those vaccines is not impaired by doing so, and the tolerability of doing that at the same time is also fine.”

“I would add that there is a practical reality to add on top, which is for the NHS to consider in more detail and it may not always be the case that it is possible to co-administer those two vaccines in every single patient.

“Sometimes it will be possible and we should gain efficiencies by doing that where we can.”

Professor Van-Tam warned of a “bumpy” winter ahead as he set out the findings of the review of Covid-19 booster jabs.

At the press conference, he said vaccines had been “incredibly successful” and had so far prevented an estimated 24 million Covid-19 cases and 112,000 deaths.

“But we also know that this pandemic is still active. We are not past the pandemic, we are in an active phase still.

“We know that this winter could quite possibly be bumpy at times and we know that other respiratory viruses such as flu and RSV are highly likely to make their returns.”

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is due to update MSPs at Holyrood on Tuesday afternoon about the proposals to double-jab people over 50 and to introduce single covid jabs for 12-15 year olds.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will later set out a “toolbox” of options for tackling an expected winter wave of covid including re-introducing working from home and compulsory face-masks, measures already in place in Scotland, to help avoid another lockdown.

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