How Over-65s are invited to Covid booster in England and admissions hit four-month high


Millions of Brits are being invited to get an autumn Covid jab from today, amid rising virus hospital admissions.

Around 20 million people in England will be eligible for the booster this year, including the over-65s, pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions.

They have been urged to make their vaccination appointment, during which they will also be offered a flu shot – via the NHS website, app or by calling 119.

Officials have delayed the rollout by a full month due to the spread of the highly mutated Pirola Covid variant, which experts fear could cause a spike in infections and hospital admissions.

The latest data shows that the number of infected Britons admitted to hospital in England has reached a four-month high, with numbers doubling in a month.

In an effort to 'get back to normal', invitations are not being extended to millions between the ages of 50 and 64 who were eligible during the pandemic

In an effort to ‘get back to normal’, invitations are not being extended to millions between the ages of 50 and 64 who were eligible during the pandemic

It comes at a time when Covid hospital admissions in England have risen to their highest level in four months.  In the week to September 8, approximately 3,287 infected people were admitted, the highest number since the week to April 28 (3,485).  The numbers have also almost doubled in a month, compared to the 1,804 NHS Covid beds in the week to August 4

It comes at a time when Covid hospital admissions in England have risen to their highest level in four months. In the week to September 8, approximately 3,287 infected people were admitted, the highest number since the week to April 28 (3,485). The numbers have also almost doubled in a month, compared to the 1,804 NHS Covid beds in the week to August 4

Health chiefs say everyone eligible will receive a Covid booster by the end of October in response to the ‘risk from the new variant’.

The autumn rollout started last week, with care home residents and housebound people being the first to receive additional Covid and flu jabs.

Hundreds of thousands of those involved in the rollout will receive invitations from the health service this week, encouraging them to come forward.

In addition to care home residents and homebound people, people over 65, primary health and social care workers and informal caregivers are also eligible for Covid and flu vaccines.

People aged 6 months to 64 years in a clinical risk group are also invited.

This group includes people with chronic respiratory, heart, kidney or liver disease, as well as people with diabetes, pregnant women and people with morbid obesity.

GP practices and other local NHS services are also contacting people to offer the vaccines.

The 30 million Brits who are eligible for a flu jab can book a spot at their local pharmacy. Those who receive a Covid vaccine will also be offered a flu shot during that appointment.

Around 5,000 sites – the most ever – will distribute vaccines in a bid to make it as ‘easy and convenient as possible’ for people to get protected.

Steve Russell, NHS director for vaccinations and screening, said: ‘Vaccines are our best protection against flu and Covid, and I strongly encourage all eligible people to come forward for their life-saving winter vaccines as soon as possible.

‘The new Covid variant brings a new risk, but NHS staff are once again rising to the challenge of doing everything they can to protect the public.’

The NHS says winter and flu vaccines provide essential protection for those eligible and their families over winter.

The shot protects against serious illness, hospitalization and death due to the virus. Those who received a vaccine last fall were 53 percent less likely to be hospitalized in the month after the shot, compared with those who did not receive a booster.

It is vital that people get a booster dose even if they have had a Covid vaccine or been previously infected, as the immunity these provide fades over time.

Health Secretary Maria Caulfield said: ‘As we move into the autumn months, it is vital that the most vulnerable groups receive flu and Covid vaccines to boost their immunity and reduce pressure on the NHS.

‘We are investing an additional £200 million in the NHS to support it during its busiest period. We can all do our part to help ease the pressure, so I encourage everyone who is eligible to book their vaccines as soon as they are called to ensure we all go into winter with the best protection.”

The east of England had the highest number of cases thanks to a huge outbreak of 28 cases in Norfolk nursing homes in late August

The east of England had the highest number of cases thanks to a huge outbreak of 28 cases in Norfolk nursing homes in late August

More than 100 cases of Pirola have been discovered worldwide, including in Denmark, South Africa and the US

More than 100 cases of Pirola have been discovered worldwide, including in Denmark, South Africa and the US

Although virologists have cautioned that it is too early to reliably pinpoint the specific symptoms of BA.2.86, its precursor BA.2 showed some telltale signs.  Experts aren't sure yet, but if it behaves like similar Omicron subvariants, signs to look out for include a runny nose, sore throat and fatigue.

Although virologists have cautioned that it is too early to reliably pinpoint the specific symptoms of BA.2.86, its precursor BA.2 showed some telltale signs. Experts aren’t sure yet, but if it behaves like similar Omicron subvariants, signs to look out for include a runny nose, sore throat and fatigue.

Dr. Mary Ramsay, head of immunization at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said: ‘We are already seeing a slow rise in Covid cases, as well as an increase in hospital admissions, especially among the over-75s.

‘Older people and those in clinical risk groups are still at higher risk of severe illness, so it is important that everyone who is eligible comes forward when offered and is protected against flu and Covid.’

It comes at a time when Covid hospital admissions in England have risen to their highest level in four months.

In the week to September 8, approximately 3,287 infected people were admitted, the highest number since the week to April 28 (3,485).

The toll has also almost doubled in a month, compared to the 1,804 NHS Covid beds in the week to August 4.

Pirola has been detected in Britain, the US, Israel, Denmark, South Africa, Portugal, Sweden, France, Canada, Thailand and Switzerland.  Health experts fear that the disease is spreading rapidly around the world unnoticed

Pirola has been detected in Britain, the US, Israel, Denmark, South Africa, Portugal, Sweden, France, Canada, Thailand and Switzerland. Health experts fear that the disease is spreading rapidly around the world unnoticed

It is unclear how many Britons have been infected with the virus as the nation no longer is mass testing as they did earlier in the pandemic – with free community mass testing being scrapped in May 2022.

However, health chiefs estimated last week that the Pirola variant, scientifically known as BA.2.86, was responsible for 2.7 per cent of cases in the week to August 27.

By September 11, a total of 42 cases had been detected in Britain, up from 36 a week earlier.

The east of England has recorded the highest number of cases following a massive outbreak of 28 cases in Norfolk nursing homes at the end of August.

Excluding this particular event, London was the UK’s Pirola hotspot, recording six cases, followed by Scotland, which has reported five.

Of the 37 cases in England detected on September 11, seven were hospitalized, while two were detected among A&E patients. No deaths have been recorded among those infected.

No Pirola cases have been detected in Wales and Northern Ireland.

More than 100 cases of Pirola have been detected worldwide, including in Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Portugal, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and the US.

Dr. UKHSA incident director Renu Bindra said that while Pirola has a “significant number of mutations” compared to other variants in circulation, data so far is “too limited to draw firm conclusions” about the impact this will have.

She added: ‘It is clear that there is some level of widespread community transmission, both in Britain and globally, and we are working to determine the full extent of this.

“In the meantime, it remains critical that all eligible people come forward to receive their fall vaccine as soon as it is offered to them.”