Due to concerns about the new COVID variant BA.2.86, the UK health authorities moved up the deployment of their winter vaccine schedule for the sickest people from early October to Monday.
The National Health Service (NHS) announced that beginning this week, housebound individuals and residents of senior care facilities will start receiving their COVID and flu vaccinations and starting the next week, other high-risk groups will be asked to receive “top-up protection” ahead of winter.
Although the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has not designated the variant, BA.2.86, as a “variant of concern,” it is nonetheless being actively watched because of its propensity to change.
According to the NHS, the flu and COVID outbreaks combined to cause “record pressure on staff” and high hospital occupancy rates throughout the last winter.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society condemned the early start for coming at short notice and perhaps confusing the public and pharmacists. Along with Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland will start their winter vaccination programs this month.
After being connected to a “high attack rate” in an epidemic at a care facility, the Covid variation BA.2.86—which differs genetically from its predecessors in numerous ways—began to receive attention in the U.K. in August.
“With concerns arising over new Covid variants, it’s vital we adapt the programme and bring it forward for those most at risk, and so I strongly urge everyone eligible to come forward as soon as they can for this important protection in colder months,” said Steve Russell, NHS director of vaccinations and screening.
The Vaccine Programme
Due to the risk of the new COVID-19 form and in advance of the winter season, the NHS advises individuals to obtain both vaccinations as quickly as they can.
Even if they have received a vaccination or have previously experienced flu or COVID illness, it is crucial for those who qualify to upgrade their defenses because immunity erodes over time and these viruses evolve every year.
With the program moving up, vaccine providers will now receive an extra £10 payment for each COVID vaccination they give to residents of nursing homes between 11 September and 22 October 2023. Each completed care facility by the end of October will additionally get a separate one-time payment of £200.
For each covid vaccination given to eligible individuals between September 11 and October 31, 2023, vaccine providers will receive an additional £5 acceleration payment for other eligible groups.