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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke January 31, 2023

The UK is targeting older adults in its upcoming COVID-19 vaccine campaigns, not banning them

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  • The United Kingdom is changing its COVID-19 vaccination program so that people under 50 qualify for a booster only if they are at a higher-risk for severe illness, work or live with people who are immunocompromised, or are pregnant, among other categories. It's not a ban, but it restricts who can access the booster.

A screenshot of a blog post headline populating social media gives the mistaken impression that the United Kingdom is prohibiting anyone under 50 years old from receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. 

"U.K. becomes latest country to ban COVID boosters for under-50s," the Jan. 25 headline says. 

An Instagram post sharing this message was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

We contacted the United Kingdom Health Security Agency about the claim but didn’t hear back. 

However, a spokesperson for the agency, which oversees infectious disease response in the United Kingdom, told The Associated Press that boosters are "definitely not being banned" and described as "nonsense" the claims the United Kingdom is banning them for people under 50. 

Here’s what’s actually happening. 

On Jan. 25, Steve Barclay, the United Kingdom’s health and social care secretary, announced that the U.K. was changing its COVID-19 vaccination program for 2023 under guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. 

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On Feb. 12, Barclay said in a tweet, the 2022 fall booster campaign would end, and the United Kingdom would stop offering boosters for 16- to 49-year-olds who were not in a clinical risk group

The risk group, which remains eligible for the booster, includes people with chronic respiratory disease, immunosuppression and severe mental illness, people who are pregnant and people who are morbidly obese. Frontline workers and people who live with someone who is immunocompromised, among others, are also eligible for the booster, regardless of age.

"We strongly encourage everyone who is currently eligible for a first booster and is yet to come forward to do so before the offer closes," the Health Security Agency said in a statement

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said in a November 2022 statement on its advice for the United Kingdom’s COVID-19 vaccination program in 2023 that "severe COVID-19 continues to be disproportionately greater in those from older age groups, residents in care homes for older adults, and persons with certain underlying health conditions." 

The claim that the United Kingdom banned boosters for people under 50 echoes one we’ve previously checked about Denmark prohibiting people in that age group from receiving any COVID-19 shot. 

In that case, we found that Denmark was focusing its booster campaign on people over 50 — not restricting everyone else from receiving a shot. 

The United Kingdom has launched a similar booster campaign plan. But unlike Denmark, where people under 50 could still generally get the COVID-19 primary vaccine series, the U.K. Health Security Agency spokesperson told The Associated Press that healthy younger people who don’t have risk factors, such as cancer or pregnancy, won’t be able to get any COVID-19 vaccine shots going forward.

People under 50 aren't banned from receiving the booster in the UK, but there are restrictions about who in that age range can get one. We rate this claim Mostly False.

Our Sources

Instagram post, Jan. 25, 2023

PolitiFact, Denmark is focusing its COVID-19 booster campaign on people over 50, it’s not banning everyone else, Oct. 18, 2022

Reuters, UK to give COVID booster dose to higher-risk groups in autumn, Jan. 25, 2023

The Daily Sceptic, U.K. Becomes Latest Country to Ban Covid Boosters for Under-50s, Jan. 25, 2023

The Associated Press, UK not banning COVID-19 vaccines for people under 50, Jan. 27, 2023

Steve Barclay tweet, Jan. 25, 2023

UK Health Security Agency, JCVI advises an autumn COVID-19 vaccine booster, Jan. 25, 2023

JCVI statement on the COVID-19 vaccination programme for 2023: 8 November 2022, updated, Jan. 27, 2023

COVID-19 Green Book, Chapter 14a, Sept. 4, 2022

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The UK is targeting older adults in its upcoming COVID-19 vaccine campaigns, not banning them

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