Ministers have announced details of the vaccination programmes that will be starting before the winter, including a booster programme for Islanders who are most at-risk of COVID-19, vaccines for 12 to 15-year-olds and the annual flu vaccination programme.
In addition, guidance has been issued to minimise risk during the autumn.
COVID vaccines for 12 to 15-year-olds
Following recommendations from the Chief Medical Officers in the UK, 12 to 15-year-old Islanders will soon be offered the Pfizer vaccine. Like all vaccinations, this will be voluntary, and parental consent will be required for young people to get their vaccination.
While young people are not at significant clinical risk from the effects of COVID-19, medical experts assessed the benefit of vaccination purely for this age group, without considering any benefit to other groups. They agree that vaccination will help reduce disruption to education and avoid further damage to the mental health and wellbeing of young people who have been at home away from their friends, their schools and their outside activities. When taking these wider impacts into account, the risk/benefit ratio favours offering vaccination to this age group.
A Child Rights Impact Assessment (CRIA) has been put together by the Children’s Commissioner, alongside officers from Strategic Policy, Planning and Performance (SPPP) and Children, Young People Education and Skills (CYPES).
The CRIA considers the proposals to extend the COVID-19 vaccination programme to 12 to 15 year-olds from the perspective of the rights and perspectives of children and young people. A CRIA has previously been produced for the closure and reopening of schools earlier in the pandemic.
Vaccinations will be available for younger Islanders from Monday 27 September. The team at Fort Regent will be setting up a specialist area, with a team of staff who have experience in vaccinating young people, to make the process as welcoming as possible.
The Minister for Children and Education, Deputy Scott Wickenden, said: “We know that young people are at lower clinical risk from the effects of COVID, but it is still important to protect them as much as possible, and getting vaccinated remains one of the most important ways of keeping safe.
“The decision to offer vaccination for young people has been taken based on all of the factors specific to young people, including their mental and physical health, wellbeing and right to access education. It is a decision that has been taken with the right of children first – young people are not being offered vaccination just to protect others; this is about protecting them.
“I would like to thank the Children’s Commissioner who has been very supportive of the vaccination recommendations and has worked on a CRIA with Government officers to ensure the breadth of children’s right were considered carefully and met.”
Booster vaccinations for at risk Islanders
Following the latest advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and the Chief Medical Officers in the UK, Jersey will be launching a COVID-19 booster vaccination programme, to protect those who are most at risk from the virus.
The guidance issued by the JCVI earlier this week recommended that booster vaccines be offered in the UK to those more at risk from serious disease, and those who were vaccinated in the early stages of the vaccine programme.
Jersey’s booster programme will begin on Monday 20 September for care home residents, Islanders aged 80 and older, and all health and social care workers. The priority groups cover:
Islanders living in residential care homes for older adults
all adults aged 50 years or older
all health and social care workers
all Islanders aged 16 to 49 years with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19, including adult carers
adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals
86% of Islanders over the age of 16 have now received a COVID-19 vaccine. However, it is expected that COVID infections will continue to circulate in the coming months, alongside seasonal flu and other respiratory viruses.
Early data on older individuals from Public Health England (PHE) suggests that the protection provided by vaccines against COVID-19 decreases gradually over time. The JCVI and the Chief Medical Officers have decided to take a precautionary approach by recommending action to maintain a high level of protection in vulnerable adults.
It is also recommended that a booster dose should be given six months after a second dose has been received. This means, before booking an appointment, Islanders who fall within an eligible priority group for a booster, need to ensure six months has passed since their second dose.
Annual flu vaccination programme
In addition to the COVID booster, the extended flu vaccination programme will be offered, free of charge, to Islanders aged 50 and older, and to those in at-risk flu groups.
The flu programme is expected to start from Monday 18 October. The JCVI have advised that the flu and COVID booster vaccines can be administered together to those who are eligible. Jersey’s vaccination team are aiming to offer this at the vaccination centre at Fort Regent when the flu vaccine arrives on Island. Further information on where the flu vaccine will be available for all other Islanders will follow in the coming weeks.
A high flu vaccine uptake will help improve the general respiratory health of Islanders, which will:
help guard against the consequences of contracting flu and COVID at the same time, or consecutively
reduce the pressure on the health service, permitting better delivery of care for all
reduce the risk of transmission of asymptomatic COVID by people coughing and sneezing with flu symptoms
The Minister for Health and Social Services, Deputy Richard Renouf, said: “Jersey’s COVID-19 vaccination programme has been hugely successful in protecting people against hospitalisation and serious illness, and I am pleased that we can now start a booster programme which will prolong that protection as we head towards the winter.
“The programme will start in care homes and at the vaccination centre from Monday. This will ensure that our most vulnerable Islanders are protected from COVID-19 and will maximise protection as we approach winter.
“Most of these people will also be eligible for the annual flu vaccine and I hope eligible Islanders will take up this offer once the vaccine arrives in Jersey.”
The Deputy Medical Officer of Health, Dr Ivan Muscat, said: “We have followed the expert advice of the UK health authorities and the JCVI throughout our response to the pandemic, and the COVID booster programme will ensure that the protection we have provided to islanders will be maintained throughout the winter months.
“The booster dose should only be given six months after a second dose. The third booster doses will be Pfizer, regardless of which vaccine was received for primary doses. This is perfectly safe and follows evidence that indicates the Pfizer vaccine is well tolerated as a third dose and provides a strong booster response.”
“A booster dose is the best way to maintain the high level of protection provided by the vaccines, and we will be offering flu vaccines at the same time when the vaccine becomes available.
“We are expecting a much higher prevalence of flu this winter given the virus was in low circulation last season due to the reduction in international travel and the measures introduced to limit gatherings. Getting a flu vaccination this year, as soon as they are available, is incredibly important to ensure that the more vulnerable members of our population are protected against flu.”
Autumn public health guidance
Guidance is being issued to minimise risk and to ensure Islanders remain well as winter vaccinations are offered. Islanders are reminded to:
spend time with people outdoors wherever possible, and when indoors keep windows open
socialise in smaller groups to reduce the number of people you are exposed to
limit attendance at gatherings of more than 10 people
Consider reducing how many larger events you attend - especially during periods of high transmission
maintain distance from people outside your household when attending gatherings
consider the health of people you know who are vulnerable to COVID-19, colds or flu. If they are avoiding large gatherings then consider doing the same before you visit them
The Chief Minister, Senator John le Fondré, said: “Vaccination has been a real game-changer. If you are 50 or older, and double vaccinated, you are now 25 times less likely to be hospitalised than an unvaccinated person of the same age.
“This does not mean the future is without risk, but it does mean we can encourage people to make their own, informed choices about keeping themselves safe.
“There are practical steps that we can all take to lower our risk of catching COVID, by choosing to meet up outside or in smaller groups, maintaining physical distancing or choosing to wear a mask.
“We expect the rates of COVID to fluctuate as we progress through autumn. Ministers will be closely monitoring these trends but our key focus now is on hospitalisations rather than case numbers.
“Today’s updates to our vaccination programme will further insulate the health of our community from the worst effects of COVID-19 and give additional protection to our society.”
The JCVI will continue to review emerging scientific data, including data relating to the duration of immunity for those less vulnerable to severe outcomes from COVID-19.
Jersey’s full COVID Winter Strategy will be published in October.
Timetable for booster vaccinations:
Monday 20 September
- registered care home residents
- all Health and Social Care Staff Including Care and Domestic Home Care Staff
- aged 80 and older
Monday 27 September
- aged 70 and older
Monday 4 October
- clinically extremely vulnerable aged 16-69
- clinically at risk aged 16-69
Monday 11 October
- aged 60 and older
Monday 18 October
- aged 50 and older
Monday 25 October
- adult household contacts of immunosuppressed people
- adult carers
The flu priority groups include:
- infants 6 months to 2 years of age in a clinical risk group
- all children aged 2, 3 and 4 years
- school aged children - Reception up to year 11
- 16 to 50 years in clinical risk group
- people aged 50 and older
- pregnant women
- households of those on the shielded patient list or of immunocompromised individuals
- home carers
- care home and domiciliary staff
- frontline health and community services staff
Government of Jersey Press Conference