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Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary, has said the Government should change the rule that people must wait six months before getting Covid booster jabs in order to improve protection before Christmas.
People most vulnerable to Covid, including all those over the age of 50, are allowed to get a third jab but must wait until six months after having their second to do so.
There are concerns not enough people are coming forward to get boosters, with Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, saying on Wednesday that the Government wanted more people to get jabbed.
Mr Hunt made the suggestion of changing the six-month wait to five during a House of Commons debate.
He said: “Does it really matter when it’s only nine weeks until the Christmas holidays if someone has their booster jab after five months? And should we not look at whether there should be flexibility in that decision so we can get more people in more quickly for their booster jabs?”
Maggie Throup, the health minister, said: “The JCVI [Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation] has provided the advice that it should be a minimum of six months from the second jab.”
She told the House that “immunity doesn’t fall off a cliff edge”, saying “it has waned slightly” but that vaccinated people “still have a huge amount of immunity over and above those who are yet to get their first jab”. She urged people to come forward as soon as they are eligible.
There is no indication yet that the JCVI will make the change, but the committee has at times altered its advice as the situation has changed. Initially, all adults were told to wait 12 weeks between their first and second doses of a Covid vaccine, but this was later shortened to quicken uptake of second jabs.
Downing Street has so far resisted calls to bring in “Plan B” Covid restrictions, which would include a return of face mask mandates and potentially asking people to work from home, but faces growing pressure from health bodies to act with new Covid cases across the UK having risen to 50,000 a day.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the chairman of the British Medical Association, said: “[The Government] said it would enact ‘Plan B’ to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed. As doctors working on the frontline, we can categorically say that time is now.
“It is wilfully negligent not to be taking any further action to reduce the spread of infection, such as mandatory mask-wearing, physical distancing and ventilation requirements in high-risk settings.
“The Government has taken its foot off the brake, giving the impression that the pandemic is behind us and that life has returned to normal. The reality today is an unacceptable rate of infections, hospitalisations and deaths.”