A plan to offer everyone 50 and over a booster vaccine was announced Tuesday as part of a winter coronavirus strategy for England designed to prevent any new wave of cases from overwhelming the National Health Service, while trying to avoid another lockout.
Health secretary Sajid Javid told MPs on Tuesday afternoon that additional doses of the vaccine would begin to be offered from next week to this group. The move follows news on Monday that a vaccine will be offered to children between the ages of 12 and 15.
As part of its winter plan, the government has not completely ruled out another lockdown, presenting it as a last resort that would only be considered if England faced a new, highly transmissible variant. Authorities are seeking to avoid the type of lockdown that for months has kept people from seeing family and friends, even in most outdoor environments, while preventing another catastrophic winter wave like the one that hit the country Last year.
Mr Javid said the government is preparing a ‘plan B’ as an emergency in case cases increase dramatically as some experts fear they will do so during the winter months. This includes reintroducing the requirement to wear face coverings in indoor spaces and on public transport, and advising people to work from home when possible.
On Sunday, the government said it would not proceed with a passport vaccination scheme that would have forced nightclubs and certain other places in England to check the status of those attempting to enter. But he kept open the possibility of relaunching the strategy if the situation deteriorated.
“The link between cases, hospitalizations and deaths has weakened considerably since the start of the pandemic and deaths from Covid-19 have been thankfully weak compared to previous waves,” Mr Javid told lawmakers. “Nevertheless, we must be vigilant because autumn and winter are favorable conditions for Covid-19 and other seasonal viruses. “
On Tuesday, government science advisers said it would be safe for additional doses of the vaccine to be “co-administered”, along with flu shots, for the elderly. Speaking to the BBC, Mr Javid all but ruled out another round of severe restrictions, saying that while not ruled out, “I just don’t see how we come to another lockdown.”
Over the past year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has often come under pressure from a vocal group of lawmakers in the libertarian wing of his Conservative party who have campaigned for the removal of the coronavirus rules.
In July, Mr Johnson gave them largely what they wanted, easing most legal restrictions on coronaviruses on what the tabloids have called ‘freedom day’.
Britain now has an average of around 30,000 new coronavirus cases and around 1,000 hospitalizations every day, according to government data. And although this is significantly less than the 100,000 cases predicted by some experts, government officials know another rise is possible as children return to school and the weather worsens during fall and winter. .
British health officials approved the mass coronavirus vaccination program for children aged 12 to 15 on Monday, despite reservations from some medical experts who questioned whether young people would benefit significantly from the vaccines.
The move, announced by chief medical officers in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, follows weeks of uncertainty over whether children in this age group would be allowed to receive the injections.