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In the United Kingdom, everyone who is 50 or over will be offered the fourth dose of the COVID vaccine in the fall, the British government said Friday lowering the age threshold. Previously, all above 65 were offered the fourth dose. The decision has been taken based on U.K.’s independent vaccines adviser about the autumn booster program.

Apart from that, the fourth dose will also be given to health care workers, nursing home staff and residents, and all those aged 5 and up with health conditions. Most of the same groups will also get a free flu shot.

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.

Currently, the country 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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