POLITICS
13/09/2021 21:00 BST | Updated 13/09/2021 23:11 BST

Covid Vaccine Booster For Over-50s As Boris Johnson Set To Unveil Winter Plan

Prime minister's strategy on Tuesday is likely to include guidance to work from home and the mandatory use of face masks.

Toby Melville via Reuters
Boris Johnson will on Tuesday outline his winter strategy to tackle Covid-19.

Boris Johnson is to set out plans for Covid booster jabs for the over-50s as part of a winter battleplan to keep Covid under control.

The prime minister will outline a plan – which is likely to include the return of guidance to work from home – during an address to the nation on Tuesday.

Downing Street confirmed that ministers had received the final advice on the issue from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

The BBC reported the over-50s would be offered a Pfizer/BioNTech jab at least six months after they received their second dose of the vaccine.

Ministers believe it will help ensure the NHS is not overwhelmed by new cases of the disease as it moves into the winter.

However it has been criticised by some scientists, who argue the priority now should be to get the jab to those countries which have received only scant quantities of the vaccine.

Ahead of the announcement, Johnson said: “The pandemic is far from over, but thanks to our phenomenal vaccine programme, new treatments and testing we are able to live with the virus without significant restrictions on our freedoms.

“I will set out a clear plan for the autumn and winter, when the virus has a natural advantage, to protect the gains we have made.”

The prime minister’s strategy is also likely to include retaining the mandatory use of face masks, with avoiding a new wave of lockdowns being the primary motivation behind the plan.

It will come a day after the government accepted the UK’s chief medical officers recommendation to extend the Covid vaccination programme to healthy 12 to 15-year-olds.

As part of the PM’s package, Covid laws that are no longer required will be ditched and plans for vaccine passports for nightclubs and other large crowd venues have been shelved.

The travel traffic lights system is also expected to be scrapped and PCR tests will no longer be required for fully vaccinated travellers.

Number 10 said another lockdown over winter would only be considered as a “last resort”.

Asked whether ministers would consider a winter lockdown if Covid-19 cases rise, the prime minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “We are in a very different place than where we were previously when other lockdowns were introduced, thanks to the success of our vaccine programme and other things like therapeutics treatments for coronavirus.

“We would only ever consider those sort of measures as a last resort and we will set out in more detail tomorrow what our approach will be should we see a significant increase in cases.”

On Monday, the UK’s four chief medical officers said children aged 12 to 15 should be offered a first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to reduce potential transmission in schools.

The decision to rollout the vaccine to younger children means that around three million children could be eligible for the jab and comes despite the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation deciding not to recommend mass vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds.

It is expected the vaccinations will be given through schools as soon as possible.

The issue of vaccine passports has caused growing disquiet among Tory ranks, as well as facing opposition from opposition parties and industry figures.

The decision not to implement them means measures in England deviate from those in Scotland, where a motion on their introduction was passed in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, while a decision is expected in Wales next week.

Stormont ministers have yet to reach an official position on using vaccine access passports within Northern Ireland.

Health secretary Sajid Javid said on Sunday that vaccine passports were a “huge intrusion into people’s lives” and Johnson too said he wanted to avoid passports too.

“What we want to do is avoid vaccine passports, if we possibly can,” he said.

“That’s the course we’re on but I think you’ve got to be prudent and you’ve got to keep things in reserve in case things change.”