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COVID-19 booster vaccine campaign begins in England

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FILE PHOTO: People queue to receive a dose of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine at the Central Middlesex Hospital in London

LONDON (Reuters) - England launched its COVID-19 booster vaccination campaign on Thursday, the National Health Service (NHS) said, after officials and the government gave the go-ahead for the programme earlier in the week.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday outlined how the booster programme for over-50s and other priority groups will form a key plank of his plan to navigate the winter without further coronavirus lockdowns.

Booster vaccinations will be given at least six months after people received their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine, meaning the rollout will roughly follow the original priority list, and start with the oldest, most vulnerable and health workers.

NHS England said that hospital hubs had started vaccinating health workers, with full rollout to the community set to begin next week.

"It is brilliant to see that the first booster jabs are being rolled out today," health minister Sajid Javid said.

"I urge everyone who is eligible to come forward for their booster when invited, to prolong the protection that the vaccine offers those most at risk as we approach the winter months."

Britain's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended that Pfizer/BioNTech's shot be used in the booster campaign, or alternatively a half-dose of Moderna's vaccine.

The government also decided this week to move ahead with mass vaccination of children aged 12-15, which the NHS said would begin in schools next week.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Sarah Young)

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