The British government Monday announced Monday an expansion of the nation’s COVID-19 booster shot program to people ages 40 and up, to fight off a potential winter surge of the deadly disease.
Until now, only British residents ages 50 and up, those clinically vulnerable because of underlying conditions, and frontline health workers were eligible for booster shots. But at a news briefing in London, the chairman of Britain’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, Wei Shen Lin, announced the extension to those ages 40 and up who have been fully vaccinated for at least six months.
He said, as with the original booster program, either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines can be used as the booster dose, regardless of the type of vaccine originally received.
The committee also recommended a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for young people between the ages of 16 and 18. In August, the committee had advised only one dose of the vaccine for people of that age group, but would review the data, and were anticipating that a second dose may well be advised. Monday, the committee chairman said that was “indeed the case.”
The chief executive of Britain’s drug regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), Dr. June Raine, said they had closely monitored the use of the vaccines in people under 18, and their use raised no additional safety issues specific to this age group.
Speaking via video conference, British Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said the data so far showed that adults over age 60 who have received the booster were achieving over 90% protection against symptomatic illness and he expected protection against hospitalization and death to be even higher.
He said if the booster program is successful and participation numbers are high, it would “massively reduce the worry about hospitalization and death due to COVID at Christmas and for the rest of this winter, for literally millions of people.”