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Extra Covid-19 booster for over 75s and those at high risk

A Covid-19 booster vaccination is to be offered to people aged over 75 across Northern Ireland, the Department of Health has announced.

The jab will also be available to anyone over the age of 12 who is immunosuppressed.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is advising that those who are at higher risk of severe Covid-19 should be offered an additional booster this spring.

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Most people in this group will have received their most recent vaccine dose in September or October 2021 and with the lapse of time, their immunity derived from vaccination may wane substantially before the autumn of 2022.

Patricia Donnelly, Head of the Covid-19 Vaccine Programme in Northern Ireland. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

The JCVI is advising that as a precautionary measure for this year, an additional booster jab should be offered to the oldest adults and those considered most vulnerable around six months after their last vaccine.

Patricia Donnelly, the head of Northern Ireland’s vaccination programme, said: “Covid-19 has now been with us for two years and we know that it has disproportionately affected a number of groups including older adults, residents in care homes and those with certain underlying health conditions.

“We can also see from the evidence that the booster programme introduced in September 2021 has provided high levels of protection against severe disease.

“The latest data from the UK Health Security Agency has indicated that while protection against mild infection appears to wane, protection against severe illness and hospitalisation is well maintained in older adults, underlining the importance of the booster, particularly for vulnerable groups.

“The latest advice from the JCVI will help us transition to the next phase of our programme and enable us to put operational plans in place for 2022 and onwards so that we can continue to offer the vaccination and the protection it provides to those most at risk from the virus at the most appropriate time.”

The JCVI has also published interim guidance on a potential autumn vaccination programme for people who are at higher risk of severe Covid-19; such as those of older age and in clinical risk groups.

In publishing the interim advice, the JCVI has acknowledged that while there are uncertainties for the year ahead, it is likely that the threat from COVID will be highest during winter and the advice is being provided at this stage for operational purposes.

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