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Britain to roll out 4th COVID-19 vaccine shot for people 75 and older

A young person waits to receive a Covid-19 vaccination jab at Twickenham rugby stadium in London, England. File Photo by Andy Rain/EPA-EFE
1 of 2 | A young person waits to receive a Covid-19 vaccination jab at Twickenham rugby stadium in London, England. File Photo by Andy Rain/EPA-EFE

Feb. 21 (UPI) -- An independent British advisory committee on immunization announced Monday a fourth COVID-19 vaccine shot will be available in the spring for people aged 75 and over.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization advised in a statement an additional spring booster dose for people who are "the most vulnerable," including people aged 75 and older, elder care home residents and people aged 12 and older who are immunocompromised.

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This will be the fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose older people in Britain have been offered and the fifth vaccine shot offered to people with a severely weakened immune system.

The committee advised receiving the extra spring dose around six months after their last dose.

The JCVI added in the statement that vaccine immunity "declines over time," and many in the older population received their last dose of COVID-19 vaccine in September or October.

Eligible adults will be offered either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, while eligible people under 18 will be offered only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, according to the statement.

"Last year's booster vaccination program has so far provided excellent protection against severe COVID-19," Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of COVID-19 vaccination on the JCVI, said in the statement.

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"To maintain high levels of protection for the most vulnerable individuals in the population, an extra spring dose of vaccine is advised ahead of an expected autumn booster program later this year," Lim said.

The announcement comes on the same day that Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson moved to lift COVID-19 restrictions in a new plan, citing lower daily case numbers since their peak of 273,526 new cases on Jan. 4.

According to Johnson's plan, contact tracing will end and the legal requirement for those who test positive for COVID-19 to self-isolate will end on Thursday, although people are still advised to self-isolate.

The government will release updated guidance in April that will lay out "ongoing steps that people with COVID-19 should take to be careful and considerate of others," Johnson added.

A day earlier Queen Elizabeth II, 95, who received three vaccine shots tested positive for COVID-19 and has been experiencing "mild cold-like symptoms."

The country reported 38,409 new COVID-19 cases on Monday and 15 more deaths within 28 days of a COVID-19 positive test, compared to 25,696 new cases and 74 deaths reported on Sunday.

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Eighty-five percent of the country's population has been fully vaccinated and 66.1% has received a booster or third dose, the government data showed.

"Thanks to our COVID vaccine rollout we're now the freest country in Europe," British Health Secretary Sajid Javid tweeted Monday.

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