Covid: Over 50s could get fourth stitch to fight Omicron subvariants

Elderly residents of Folkestone and the surrounding area are lining up to receive their first vaccine against Covid-19

Fourth doses have already been offered as a spring booster for the UK’s most vulnerable (Picture: Getty)

People over 50 are likely to receive another Covid booster in the autumn to stave off another winter crisis for the already strained NHS.

Former Health Secretary Sajid Javid briefed Cabinet on the Omicron sub-variants for the first time in months on Tuesday, just hours before handing Boris Johnson his resignation.

The more rapidly spreading subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 – first found in South Africa – have triggered a new wave of cases.

As a result, around six million people are expected to be in line for a fourth shot, and the government is considering expanding the flu program.

Sources told the Times there would be no “dramatic change in approach” and no further restrictions were being considered.

“There is no turning away from the ‘Living with Covid’ strategy, but the feeling is that vaccination is the key intervention and it’s easy to see the fall booster campaign being expanded,” a source said.

Rapid positive cassette test for COVID-19

Medical experts are calling for a new Omicron-specific vaccine (Picture: Getty)

Fourth doses have already been offered as a spring booster to those most at risk in the UK as part of a precautionary strategy to maintain high levels of immunity.

A Whitehall source stressed that while cases are increasing relatively quickly, that doesn’t justify a dramatic change in approach.

“A very large proportion of new infections are accidental,” they said. “Vaccines are and will continue to be the most important defense.”

The NHS has advised vaccination centers to offer vaccinations to everyone over the age of 50.

Meanwhile, medical experts are calling for a new Omicron-specific vaccine to fight another wave of the virus.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is now also advising people to make sure they have all their Covid vaccinations.

Professor Paul Hunter, of the University of East Anglia, said: “The Government seems to have a desire to vaccinate everyone over 50 and I think that’s likely to catch on.”

He warned that “it looks like the flu may be a bigger problem given what we’re seeing in Australia” and that over-50s should get a flu shot again this year.

“I think we’re going to have a bad flu year ahead of us, and it could be a lot sooner,” he said.

His comments come as Australia’s Covid hospitalizations are at their highest since February.

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Justin Scacco

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