Can I get a Covid booster? Millions to miss out on autumn vaccinations as NHS slashes eligibility
The new Pirola variant of the virus has arrived in tandem with a spike in hospital admissions.
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Millions of Brits will struggle to get a Covid-19 booster jab this autumn, as eligibility is tightened by the NHS.
The autumn vaccination programme is underway, after being brought forward due to concerns about new variants. It comes as Covid-19 hospital admissions in England reach their highest rate since the end of April, in a fresh sign the virus is likely to be circulating more widely among the population.
However, this year's autumn Covid booster is not as widely available as it was last year - in fact, the Daily Mail estimates that 12m people have been made ineligible, despite being able to get a jab last year.
People between the ages of 50 and 64 are not automatically able to get a Covid booster this year. They can, however, get a jab if they have certain underlying health conditions.
Anyone who is eligible for a booster jab will be contacted by phone, text message or letter.
It's believed that the existing booster jabs will provide ample protection against the new Pirola variant.
NHS director of vaccinations and screening Steve Russell said: “The NHS flu and Covid vaccination programmes have been very effective in protecting those at greatest risk and we will work at speed to ensure they are protected once again this year, starting with care homes and those who are housebound today.
“With concerns arising over new Covid variants, it’s vital we adapt the programme and bring it forward for those most at risk, and so I strongly urge everyone eligible to come forward as soon as they can for this important protection in colder months.
“NHS staff have worked hard to ensure services are ready for patients to get jabbed at an earlier stage so they can get their protection as soon as possible.”
There are no longer any official estimates of the prevalence of Covid-19 among the UK population, meaning it is impossible to get a full and reliable picture of the spread of the virus.
Testing for Covid-19 has also been scaled back sharply, so there is not as much data available for analysis.
In the absence of more comprehensive figures, the number of people in hospital with coronavirus can offer a guide to changes in the level of Covid-19 in circulation.