The government has announced the closure of the shielding programme for people who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable to infection (CEV). Shielding was introduced at the beginning of the pandemic as a way to protect and support people who were considered to be most at risk of serious illness and hospitalisation. However, shielding is extremely restrictive and can have a significant impact on people's lives and wellbeing.
Now that many people in the UK are vaccinated, the government considers that the risks of infection are more manageable by individuals and their regular health professionals and a national shielding programme is no longer needed.
Some people with MS may fall into the CEV category. These might be people with additional health issues or people taking immunosuppressive medication. The CEV category does not include everyone with MS.
The advice for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable is to follow the same advice as the rest of the population, but to take additional precautions based on advice from their own health professionals. If you previously received a letter advising you to shield yourself from Covid-19 infection, you will receive another letter which explains the end of the shielding programme.
Vaccine effectiveness can lessen with time, particularly in older people. From next week, the NHS will begin to offer a booster dose of Covid-19 vaccines to people in priority groups 1-9. This includes people aged 50 and above, care home residents, health and social care workers, people aged between 16-49 who have specific underlying health conditions and household contacts of people who are immuno-suppressed.
The roll out of the booster programme will be more flexible than the original vaccine programme for priority groups, and boosters will in many cases be offered at the same time as the annual flu vaccine. The Covid-19 booster dose should be given at least six months after you have completed the first course of vaccine.
You will be contacted by the NHS if you are eligible for a booster. You do not need to contact your GP or MS team at present.
It doesn't matter which vaccine you had in your first vaccine course. People will be offered a full dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine or a half dose of the Moderna vacinne, based on scientific evidence showing that both provide a strong booster response. If you cannot have one of these vaccines, for example because you have an allergy to them, then the Oxford/AstraZenica vaccine will be used.
A third dose of Covid-19 vaccine will also be offered to people aged 12 and over who have severely weakened immune systems. This is because their immune systems may not have developed a strong enough response in two doses.
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