Autumn vaccination programmes brought forward

The government has announced that this year's autumn flu and COVID-19 vaccine programmes will start earlier than originally planned, following the identification of a new COVID-19 variant.

Variant BA.2.86 was first detected in the UK on Friday 18 August 2023 and is being examined by scientists from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). The variant is not currently classified as a variant of concern, though UKHSA advice suggests that starting the vaccination programme early will deliver greater protection, supporting those at greatest risk of severe illness and reducing the potential impact on the NHS.

Vaccinations will now start on 11 September, with adult care home residents and those most at risk to receive vaccines first. The programme was originally due to start in October.

Health minister, Maria Caulfield said: "As our world-leading scientists gather more information on the BA.2.86 variant, it makes sense to bring forward the vaccination programme.

"It is absolutely vital the most vulnerable groups receive a vaccine to strengthen their immunity over winter to protect themselves and reduce pressure on the NHS.

"I encourage anyone invited for a vaccination - including those yet to have their first jab - to come forward as soon as possible."

Chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, Dame Jenny Harries said: "As we continue to live with COVID-19 we expect to see new variants emerge.

"Thanks to the success of our vaccine programme, we have built strong, broad immune defences against new variants throughout the population. However, some people remain more vulnerable to severe illness from COVID-19. This precautionary measure to bring forward the autumn programme will ensure these people have protection against any potential wave this winter.

"There is limited information available at present on BA.2.86 so the potential impact of this particular variant is difficult to estimate. As with all emergent and circulating COVID-19 variants - both in the UK and internationally - we will continue to monitor BA.2.86 and to advise government and the public as we learn more. In the meantime, please come forward for the vaccine when you are called."


Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay


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