NHS to begin autumn Covid jabs next week as new variant spreads

<span>Photograph: Maureen McLean/Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: Maureen McLean/Rex/Shutterstock

Care home residents and people who are housebound will be offered Covid vaccines from Monday, with over-65s and other vulnerable groups to be called for their jabs from the week after.

The NHS will kick off its autumn programme of Covid vaccines from next week, having moved the date forward by a month in response to the spread of a new variant nicknamed Pirola.

The first groups will be able to book through a national system after they receive an invitation from the NHS. Some people may be called earlier by their GP, with some having already booked Covid vaccines for the same time as their flu jabs.

Other eligible groups will be invited by the NHS from 18 September, although not everyone will be called at the same time. These will include people aged 65 and over, those aged from six months to 64 years in a clinical risk group, frontline health and social care workers, and people aged 12 to 64 who are carers or household contacts of those with immunosuppression.

Related: Covid: what’s the situation in England, and what should I do if I get it?

Surveillance data suggest the latest Covid-19 variant, BA.2.86, appears to be spreading in the UK. The Pirola variant has prompted concern among scientists because of the high number of mutations it carries, which raises the possibility that it could evade the immune system more easily or be more transmissible.

In a briefing note on Friday, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said an outbreak at a care home in Norfolk and other cases across the UK indicated there was likely to be community transmission of the strain, but said it was too early to judge the full extent of its spread.

In the Norfolk outbreak at the end of August, 33 out of 38 residents of the home tested positive for the virus, along with 12 members of staff, the UKHSA said. One resident needed hospital treatment. Laboratory tests later showed that 22 residents and six staff had the BA.2.86 variant.