COVID and flu vaccines are rolling out across England today having been brought forward after a new coronavirus variant emerged in the UK.
The vaccines are being prioritised for people who are housebound or in care homes, though the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) recommends the jab to over-65s, those with a weakened immune system, pregnant women and people who live with others in these high risk groups.
These other groups will be invited by the NHS to get inoculated from next week.
The COVID variant, BA.2.86, has not been classified as a “variant of concern”, however it is closely being monitored due to its proclivity to mutate.
Speaking to Sky News, UKHSA chief Susan Hopkins said the variant “is about 30 mutations compared to Omicron” when it emerged in December 2021, and around “50 mutations compared to the original wildtype virus” which started the pandemic.
However, the health agency is unclear about its transmissibility, whether it causes an increased infectivity or severity.
The UKHSA cited a rise in COVID case numbers saying it was still “very small” with 3,000 people in hospital with the infection at any one time.
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Thirty-three residents and 12 staff members in a Norfolk care home tested positive for COVID after an outbreak at the end of August, an incident which lead to the advancement of the vaccine programme.
Vaccine programmes have already begun in Scotland, while Wales will roll out at the same time as England, and Northern Ireland starts its programme on 18 September.
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This notice was published: 2023-09-10 23:59:00
Sky News is a British 24-hour information television channel, the first in Europe of its kind, launched on February 5, 1989 by the British Sky Broadcasting Company.