CLAIM: The UK is banning anyone under the age of 50 from getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
AP’S RATING: Incorrect. While the country will stop providing the vaccine to people under 50 on a large scale next month, anyone deemed to have a clinical need, such as people at risk of serious illness, as well as frontline health workers and healthcare providers, can still get it. get the shot.
THE FACTS: Social media users claim the UK is banning all people under 50 from getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
Many are sharing a story from a blog known for spreading misinformation about COVID with a headline reading “UK becomes latest country to ban Covid boosters for under-50s.”
Several reports suggest that the alleged ban was motivated by concerns about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
“When people said ‘the science is settled’ I guess it wasn’t this particular science?! Can someone help me here,” wrote one Instagram user who shared a screenshot of the bogus headline in a post that has received more than 8,500 likes since Friday.
But the UK will not prevent anyone under 50 from getting the shot if it is medically necessary, stressed Shaun Whelan, a spokesman for the UK’s Health Security Agency, which oversees public health and the response to infectious diseases.
Nursing and residential care homes, social workers, home health care providers and other frontline workers are also still eligible for a COVID vaccine, as is anyone living with someone with a suppressed immune system, the agency said.
And the policy change does not reflect concerns about COVID vaccine safety, as some social media users claim, Whelan wrote in an email Thursday. What matters is that national health care resources are used effectively as the demand for vaccinations among people under 50 declines significantly.
“Certainly not prohibited. That’s just nonsense,” Whelan wrote. “Completely misleading/inaccurate to say that boosters will be banned.”
British Health Secretary Steve Barclay said this on Wednesday announced the country will end on February 12 a COVID vaccine booster campaign that started last fall.
He said there will be another vaccination campaign in the fall – and perhaps even sooner – but it will only be limited to those deemed to be at high risk of serious illness from COVID.
Health Minister Maria Caulfield, in a separate statement, encouraged anyone who has not yet received a vaccination to do so before the February deadline.
“It will boost your immunity and protect you and your loved ones,” she said.
The more targeted approach means that otherwise healthy young people and adults will not be able to receive COVID vaccinations in the future, Whelan acknowledged. But if they move into a higher risk group — such as developing cancer or diabetes or moving into an older age group — they may qualify.
Sheena Cruickshank, an immunologist at the University of Manchester, agreed that the new policy does not amount to an outright ban, noting that health officials have said they could revisit the move. She added that there is no evidence that COVID vaccines are not safe.
“The overwhelming evidence is that they are safe and make a huge difference if you need to be hospitalized,” Cruickshank wrote in an email.
At the same time, she said she is concerned about the change because it is less than what the country is doing to fight the flu, even though COVID is still causing many deaths and hospitalizations.
“We don’t know what this will mean for their immunity and protection against the serious effects of COVID, all of which are reduced by vaccination,” Cruickshank wrote.
This is part of AP’s efforts to address widespread disinformation, including working with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content circulating online. Read more about fact-checking at AP.