Swann says focus is 'severe illness' when quizzed on COVID doses for U-50s

Health Minister Robin Swann has said his department is focused on protecting those most at risk of 'severe illness' this winter when asked why people under 50 are currently not being offered a fourth COVID-19 booster dose.

Mr. Swann explained that officials are now moving from a 'pandemic emergency response' to a 'pandemic recovery' footing.

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw asked the minister to 'outline the advice informing the current decision not to offer fourth/booster vaccines against the Coronavirus to those aged under 50'.

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The minister replied that the COVID-19 vaccination programme in the north was guided by the advice and recommendations of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

Robin Swann

"As we transition from a period of pandemic emergency response to pandemic recovery, the focus of the vaccination programme will increasingly be on protecting those in society who continue to be more at risk of severe COVID-19.

"Based on JCVI advice, a booster dose will be offered from September to all residents and staff in care homes, everyone aged 50 years and over and those aged 5 to 49 years of age who are in a clinical risk group, including all pregnant women. In addition, a booster will also be available for frontline health and social care staff, carers aged 16-49 years of age as well those aged 5-49 years of age who are the household contacts of people who are immunosuppressed.

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"The primary objective for the autumn booster programme is to boost immunity in those considered by JCVI to be at higher risk from serious illness if they catch COVID-19. The autumn booster dose will optimise protection against severe COVID-19, and is expected to help reduce their risk of hospitalisation and death from COVID-19 during the winter of 2022/23," he said.