Who gets a Covid booster as new Pirola variant spreads in UK?

NHS warns of potential 'twindemic' of flu and coronavirus cases

Britain is launching a Covid-19 vaccine booster programme after a rise in cases from a new coronavirus variant. PA
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Covid and flu vaccines are being made available across England, with those living in care homes the first to receive the shot.

It comes amid a concerning rise in coronavirus cases, fuelled by a new variant, known as BA.2.86, which is being watched closely by health authorities.

The Covid-19 and flu vaccination programme is starting earlier than planned after the spread of the new strain.

The NHS has warned of a potential “twindemic” of flu and Covid, which would put pressure on the health service during the busy winter months.

Who can get the shot?

At the moment, only those in care homes and the housebound can get the new shot.

Adults aged 65 and over, people in at-risk groups and the immunosuppressed will be invited by the NHS to be inoculated from next week.

These groups will be able to book their vaccines from September 18 through the NHS website, the NHS app or by calling 119.

GP surgeries and NHS services are also contacting people to offer the vaccines.

Vaccine programmes have already kicked off in Scotland, while Wales will introduce its campaign at the same time as England. Northern Ireland officially starts its programme on September 18.

Children aged two to 17 will also be offered flu vaccines from next week.

What is Pirola?

The BA.2.86 variant, also known as Pirola, has been monitored by the UK Health Security Agency in recent weeks, as well as other global health bodies.

Pirola has not been officially classified as a “variant of concern” by the UKHSA but scientists are worried by its high number of mutations.

There have been enough unlinked cases detected in different parts of the country to suggest the variant is circulating among the community.

An outbreak of Covid-19 in a care home in Norfolk at the end of last month resulted in 33 out of 38 residents testing positive for the virus, along with 12 members of staff, the UKHSA said.

Updated: September 11, 2023, 4:32 PM