The Government has accepted the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s recommended two-stage Covid booster vaccine programme starting in September, to take place alongside flu vaccinations.
The JCVI advisory committee laid out the order of priority for groups of people receiving their third vaccine dose later this year, in interim advice published yesterday.
Adults over 70 as well as frontline health and social care workers will be in the first stage, and adults over 50 will be in the second stage. The full list of the people marked out for each stage is below.
However, other vaccines ordered by the UK Government but not yet authorised for use by the regulator ‘may become available for use in a booster programme’ and will be reviewed by the JCVI following regulatory approval, it said.
The JCVI has highlighted it will continue to review the data over the next few months, including on the duration of immunity from current vaccines, and stressed that its final advice on booster vaccination ‘may change substantially’.
Those people in stage one ‘should be offered a third dose Covid-19 booster vaccine and the annual influenza vaccine as soon as possible from September 2021’, the JCVI said.
Stage two groups ‘should be offered a third dose Covid-19 booster vaccine as soon as practicable after stage one, with equal emphasis on deployment of the influenza vaccine where eligible’, it said.
The JCVI added: ‘As most younger adults will only receive their second Covid-19 vaccine dose in late summer, the benefits of booster vaccination in this group will be considered at a later time when more information is available.
‘The initial objective for winter 2021/22 is for persons in booster stages one and two to receive their influenza and Covid-19 vaccines in good time.’
This is because it is the JCVI’s view that ‘the primary objective of a 2021 Covid-19 booster programme is to reduce the occurrence of serious Covid-19 disease’, it said.
It comes as ‘early evidence’ on the concomitant administration of the Covid and flu vaccines used in the UK ‘supports the delivery of both vaccines at the same time where appropriate’, the JCVI added.
It said: ‘The priority for deployment teams should be the delivery of influenza and Covid-19 booster vaccines to individuals identified in stage one at the earliest possible time, progressing to Covid-19 booster revaccination of individuals identified in stage two without causing undue delay and without displacement of the timely delivery of annual influenza vaccinations.
‘Within each of the stages, where practicable those with the longest interval since the second dose of their primary course of vaccination should be called first.’
JCVI Covid chair Professor Wei Shen Lim said: ’The JCVI’s interim advice is that, should a booster programme be required, a third Covid-19 vaccine dose should be offered to the most vulnerable first, starting from September 2021 to maximise individual protection and safeguard the NHS ahead of winter.
‘Almost all these people would also be eligible for the annual flu vaccine and are strongly advised to have the flu vaccine.’
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the Government is ‘working closely with the NHS to ensure that if a booster programme happens it can be deployed rapidly from September’.
Further details of both the Covid booster programme and the flu vaccination programme ‘will be set out in due course’, it added.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘We welcome this interim advice, which will help us ensure we are ready in our preparations for autumn. We look forward to receiving the committee’s final advice in due course.’
Clinical trials are underway to test seven different existing vaccines for a third booster Covid shot and are due to report by September.
The two stages the JCVI advises:
Stage 1. The following people should be offered a third dose Covid-19 booster vaccine and the annual influenza vaccine as soon as possible from September 2021:
- adults aged 16 years and over who are immunosuppressed
- those living in residential care homes for older adults
- all adults aged 70 years or over
- adults aged 16 years and over who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable
- frontline health and social care workers
Stage 2. The following people should be offered a third Covid-19 booster vaccine as soon as practicable after stage 1 with equal emphasis on deployment of the influenza vaccine where eligible:
- all adults aged 50 years and over
- all adults aged 16 to 49 years who are in an influenza or COVID-19 at-risk group as outlined in the Green Book
- adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals