There is no doubt that with darker mornings and evenings, despite the relatively mild weather, summer is over and plans need to be made for winter, particularly in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The independent expert committee – the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation (JCVI) – were asked to advise on a possible Covid vaccine booster programme. They suggested that a plan to deliver booster vaccines for the most vulnerable should be rolled out from September 2021.
I discussed this plan with the local vaccine team in Staffordshire on Friday. We have a fantastic team in Staffordshire and are one of the top performing areas for vaccine rollout and it is clear that our planning is at an advanced stage. Now that the team know the JCVI advice, people who were the first to receive their vaccines earlier this year (those in Groups 1-9) will be invited for a booster jab as least six months after they received their second vaccine.
You will hear from the NHS when you need your booster jab, so nobody needs to come forward at this time.
As well as the booster programme, the UK’s chief medical officers unanimously recommended offering a first dose of a vaccine to young people between the ages of 12 and 15. In Staffordshire this will be offered to young people at school. I am reassured to know that our policy locally is to ask for explicit parental consent. The NHS will work with concerned parents to ensure that the facts are known. As the parent of teenage children, I am pleased both that the vaccines have been found to be safe for young people and that the advice is that they should be vaccinated, which both my children will be.
Many of you have contacted me concerned about the NHS and wanting to know that there will be enough money for treatment. The Government has promised that an additional £5.4 billion will go into the NHS to deal with the backlog created by COVID-19. It is important that the money is spent effectively and I will continue to hold regular meetings with local NHS leaders on this matter.