Double-jabbed vulnerable and elderly people are dying from Covid-19 due to the efficacy of the vaccine waning, a senior adviser has said.
The effects of coronavirus vaccines are known to wane some five or six months after the second dose, as discovered in multiple studies during the pandemic.
It comes as the government launches a campaign to encourage take-up of booster jabs this autumn.
While most of those dying with Covid-19 are unvaccinated, reports last week said Number 10 was concerned about hospital admissions and deaths among double-vaccinated people rising due to waning immunity.
Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UK Health Security Agency, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show there are deaths among the elderly because around 5% remain unvaccinated.
She added: “We’re still seeing deaths in mainly the unvaccinated population ... but increasingly, because of immune waning effects, there are deaths in the vaccinated group as well.”
She added that the majority of deaths are occurring in the older age-groups, particularly the over-70s, and also among the clinically/extremely vulnerable and those with underlying medical conditions.
She continued: “As we’ve mentioned, the immune effects wane and what we see is, especially in the older or the vulnerable groups, those are the people whose immunity will wane the most.
“So, if you’re a healthy 30-year-old, then two doses will protect you for a longer period. That’s why those people need to come forward for their third dose as soon as possible.”
Patients over 50 and those most at risk from Covid-19 are currently eligible for a booster six months after their second jab.
More than seven in 10 people aged 80 and over have had their boosters while almost three in five people 50 and over have also had their top-ups, according to NHS figures from Sunday,
From Monday, booster jabs can be booked one month earlier than previously allowed
Under previous rules, people could only book their booster six months after receiving their second dose. Now, they will be able to arrange an appointment after five months, and attend as soon as the six-month period is up.
The move is meant to accelerate the programme by making it easier for people to book their inoculation.
Dr Hopkins said that while the uptake of booster jabs has “quite good,” is has also been slower than with previous doses.
“I think that may be due to people thinking they’re already protected, which is why we’re giving a lot of public health messages about why it’s so important for them to come forward for that third dose.”
She added: “We know that the virus is circulating at very high levels in our community. So unless people get vaccinated, we will have a long and difficult winter.”
Additional reporting by PA.
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