A mass Covid booster vaccine campaign for tens of millions of Britons will be launched within days in a race to avoid a winter lockdown, it was announced today.

The Government’s vaccine advisory panel finally signed off on the plans after weeks of deliberation, with third doses now being recommended for roughly 30million over-50s, as well as frontline health and care workers.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam told a Downing Street press conference that the programme would provide ‘very good’ immunity and help ‘keep the lid on’ the epidemic this winter.

People are only being invited to come forward if they had their second injection at least six months ago, which officials said was the ‘sweet spot’ for boosters.

The third doses will be rolled out to the top nine priority groups who were first in line during the initial Covid vaccination programme, with the elderly and vulnerable first in line. It took a little over three months to cover those groups with a first dose earlier this year but officials expect the booster scheme to quicker now because the infrastructure and expertise is already in place.

Members of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) approved the plans on the back of growing real-world data in Israel and elsewhere, as well as a major British study, which showed vaccine-induced immunity wanes slightly within months.

Britons who are eligible will be given the Pfizer vaccine in the first instance, no matter which jab they were originally immunised with. When there are supply constraints, the Moderna vaccine will be offered as a booster, but only as a half dose. Officials said there was more evidence that the mRNA vaccines were safe and effective when given as a third dose, which is why they are not recommending AstraZeneca’s. Moderna’s is being given as a half dose because the lower dosage is associated with fewer side effects and still produces a strong immune response, the JCVI said.

Professor Van-Tam said that as a 57-year-old healthcare worker, who will be eligible for a booster vaccine, he would be ‘content’ with getting a full Pfizer or half Moderna dose.

Read More: ALL over-50s will get booster Covid jabs within DAYS

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