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LONDON (AP) — The British government said Friday that everyone 50 or over will be offered a fourth dose of coronavirus vaccine in the fall, lowering the age threshold from the previously announced 65.

The Department of Health said it had accepted advice from the U.K.’s independent vaccines adviser about the autumn booster program.

Fourth doses will also be given to health care workers, nursing home staff and residents, and all those aged 5 and up with health conditions that make them more vulnerable to severe illness from COVID-19.

Most of the same groups will also get a free flu shot.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the booster campaign would “keep our defenses strong over autumn and winter.”

“Vaccines were our way out of this pandemic, and now they will make sure COVID can never haunt us in the same way again,” he said.

Like many European countries, Britain is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, driven by the ultra-contagious BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the omicron strain. The Office for National Statistics estimates that 1 in 19 people in England had the virus in the week ending July 6.

The U.K. has one of Europe’s highest official death tolls in the pandemic, with almost 178,000 confirmed deaths of people who tested positive.


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