COVID jab targeting both original strain and Omicron to be rolled out from 5 September
The UK became the first country in the world to approve Moderna's bivalent vaccine, with ministers saying the 26 million people in England who are eligible for an autumn booster will have access to one.
Thursday 18 August 2022 21:04, UK
A COVID jab which targets both the original strain and Omicron will be rolled out across England from 5 September as part of the autumn booster programme.
Care home residents and people who are housebound will be among the first to be jabbed when the rollout gets underway, NHS England has said.
A wider rollout is due to begin on 12 September.
Vaccines that work for two infections are known as bivalents and have been developed by global manufacturers since the emergence of the Omicron variant.
Ministers have said the 26 million people across England who are eligible for an autumn booster will have access to one of the bivalent jabs in line with guidance set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on Monday.
It comes after reports suggested the country does not have enough doses to offer the new jab to all people eligible for the booster.
As with previous campaigns, the oldest and most vulnerable will be called first, with people able to book online or through 119 as long as it has been three months since their dose.
Up to 3,000 sites are expected to be part of the rollout, including GP practices and community pharmacies, and new venues may be added to the scheme.
NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: "The NHS was the first healthcare system in the world to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials, and will now be the first to deliver the new, variant-busting vaccine when the rollout begins at the start of September."
More than 126 million COVID vaccines have been administered by NHS staff and volunteers since the first jab was delivered, outside of clinical trials, to Maggie Keenan in Coventry in December 2020.
Ms Pritchard said: "Our fantastic NHS staff have worked incredibly hard to deliver 126 million doses to date and behind the scenes they have once again been preparing to deliver the latest phase with the same speed and precision as we have had throughout the rollout."
She urged anyone who is invited to take up both an autumn booster and flu jab, "to do so as quickly as possible - it will give you maximum protection this winter".
Scientists hedging bets with mixed COVID vaccine for original strain and Omicron variants
The new-generation vaccine has in-built insurance against the evolving COVID virus.
The jab made by Moderna - and Pfizer isn't far behind with its own version - still triggers an immune response against the original Wuhan version of the virus. But it also adds protection against the Omicron family of variants that have become so dominant this year.
The so-called bivalent - or twin-target - vaccine is the first to be approved by the UK medical regulator.
Clinical trials have shown it is safe and generates a much higher antibody response to Omicron.
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The NHS will also be rolling out the flu vaccine and encouraging eligible people to take up the offer from the first of the month where possible.
It means that some people may be offered approved doses of the flu and COCIS jab which can be given at the same time.
Steve Russell, the NHS director for vaccinations and screening, said: "This winter will be the first time we see the real effects of both COVID and flu in full circulation as we go about life as normal - and so it is vital that those most susceptible to serious illness from these viruses come forward for the latest jab in order to protect themselves.
"We know that our GPs and community pharmacies have been integral to the success of the NHS vaccination programme due to their locations and relationships with local communities, and so it is fantastic that so many have opted to be part of the latest phase of the campaign."
The national booking service is set to open during the week of 5 September, with the NHS inviting those who are most susceptible to serious illness from COVID-19 and those aged 75 and over to book an appointment from that week.
Health and social care staff will also be able to get the autumn booster.
All providers are being asked to ensure their staff are offered the autumn jab, potentially alongside the flu jab.
The JCVI and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have said the original vaccines continue to provide good protection and people should come forward regardless of the vaccine offered.