England Ends COVID-19 Booster Vaccine Programme for Under 50s

England Ends COVID-19 Booster Vaccine Programme for Under 50s
Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines in Denmark in a 2021 file image. (Claus Fisker/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images)
Lily Zhou

From Monday, healthy people under 50 in England can no longer get seasonal booster shots as part of the government’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

It comes after the UK government’s advisory body on vaccines, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), recommended that the offer for the age group should end with the autumn 2022 vaccination campaign.
According to NHS England, Everyone aged 5 or over by Aug. 31, 2022, will still be offered two primary doses of COVID-19 vaccines, while over-16s and vulnerable children aged 12 to 15 can still get a booster dose, but those who are under 50 and are not in a clinical risk group can no longer get further boosters.

The JCVI has said the uptake of the initial booster in the under-50 age group has been under 0.1 percent per week since April 2022.

In Wales and Northern Ireland, shots after the primary booster have not been available for under 50s who are not clinically at risk.

In Scotland, boosters for healthy people aged between 16 and 49 will end on March 31.

The JCVI has also said the primary vaccination offer should become more targeted over the course of 2023, to include over-50s, health and social care workers, carers, over-5s who are in clinical risk groups, and over-12s who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression.

Dr. Tess Lawrie, director of Evidence-Based Medicine Consultancy Ltd. (Screenshot/The Epoch Times)
Dr. Tess Lawrie, director of Evidence-Based Medicine Consultancy Ltd. (Screenshot/The Epoch Times)
The UK’s medicines regulator the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), on Feb. 3 said COVID-19 vaccination is still “the single most effective way to reduce deaths and severe illness from COVID-19” while many doctors, including the UK’s Dr. Tess Lawrie and U.S. doctor Peter McCullough, have insisted since early days of the pandemic that a number of cheap repurposed drugs work well in early treatment of COVID-19.

The effectiveness and safety profile of the mRNA vaccines are also contested. Health authorities, including the MHRA, have maintained that severe side effects such as myocarditis and pericarditis, are “very rare,” while the opposition has said the vaccines are either overrated, useless, or harmful.

The Health Advisory and Recovery Team, a group of British doctors and scientists skeptical of the government’s COVID-19 responses, in January wrote to the MHRA, calling for an “urgent pause in the Covid vaccination programme, pending a thorough and independent review of all available safety data.”

British cardiologist Dr. Aseem Malhotra, who previously supported the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, also joined the opposition camp last year, calling for a halt of the vaccination programme.

Denmark has stopped vaccinating healthy people under 50 since autumn last year, saying those in the age group are “generally not at particularly higher risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19.” The Danish Health Authority also said the purpose of its vaccination campaign was to “prevent severe illness, hospitalisation, and death” and “not to prevent infection with COVID-19.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci in Washington on Dec. 9, 2022. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
Dr. Anthony Fauci in Washington on Dec. 9, 2022. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, former chief medical adviser to U.S. President Joe Biden, recently joined a growing number of officials who are acknowledging that the COVID-19 vaccines don’t work well against infection.

Vaccines against both COVID-19 and influenza have “deficiencies,” including that they “elicit incomplete and short-lived protection against evolving virus variants that escape population immunity,” Fauci and top National Institutes of Health officials wrote in a recent paper.

Meanwhile, The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added COVID-19 vaccines to its routine immunization schedule for children and adults, attracting criticism for the decision.

According to the CDC’s 2023 immunization schedule for children and adolescents, two or three doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been recommended beginning with infants who are just six months old. Children in the age group of 6 months to four years, and five years to 11 years are recommended COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna or Pfizer. Among children aged 12 to 18, Novavax vaccines are also recommended in addition to Pfizer and Moderna.

In the list for adults, two or three doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been recommended from the age of 19 years. The 2023 COVID-19 vaccine recommendation for kids and adults is included among other typically-recommended vaccines for measles, flu, rubella, and so on.

Advisers to the CDC in 2022 recommended adding the vaccines to the schedule.

Though the CDC has added COVID-19 vaccines to the recommended list, it has not mandated the vaccines. The agency does not have the authorization to do so, but local and state jurisdictions can, and many mandate most of the vaccines on the schedule. However, there are hardly any states that make flu vaccinations mandatory in public schools.

Zachary Stieber and Naveen Athrappully contributed to this report.