Thank you for contacting me about booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
I appreciate that as we approach winter, many people may be worried about the impact this could have on the COVID-19 outbreak. With increasing levels of social mixing and close social contact, it is expected that during the winter, COVID-19 will circulate alongside other respiratory viruses, including seasonal flu. These viruses have the potential to add substantially to the winter pressures usually faced by the NHS. I know that a number of my constituents are also concerned by recent data suggesting that vaccine protection begins to wane after 6 months.
It is welcome, therefore, that booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine are being given to those who were vaccinated in the first phase of the rollout earlier this year. This will be no earlier than six months after an individual’s second dose and I am told that these booster vaccines will be deployed in the same order as the initial rollout. People are being offered either a full dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine or a half dose of the Moderna vaccine, following scientific evidence showing that both provide a strong booster response. This will be regardless of which vaccine the individual previously had.
The booster programme includes all those aged 16 to 49 years with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19. This includes adults with poorly controlled asthma, as defined in the Green Book, which sets out the latest information on vaccines and vaccine procedures. It is welcome that "poorly controlled asthma" has been explicitly defined in the Green Book and I hope this will avoid any future confusion.
As you have said, the interim JCVI advice included offering boosters to those in an influenza risk group, however the final advice only included those in a COVID-19 at-risk group. While I can assure you that the final advice covers all those with poorly controlled asthma, I know this change is a concern to many of my constituents and so I will seek clarification on the situation and reasons for the change.
Our vaccine rollout has been phenomenal and, like the Government, I believe it is vital that we do everything possible to prolong the protection vaccines offer. The NHS are contacting people directly to arrange a booster and I urge all those eligible to get their vaccine as soon as they can, so they have the strongest possible protection over the winter months.