Nurses and all other frontline health and social care workers are to be offered a Covid-19 booster vaccine this autumn.
As the Covid-19 vaccination programme enters its third autumn season, people aged 65 and over, care home residents, and those in clinical risk groups will also be eligible for a booster jab.
This amends the eligibility criteria from last year’s autumn campaign in which everyone aged 50 or older was eligible to receive a vaccination.
These recommendations made by the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have been accepted in full by the government.
Eligible patients who have not yet received any Covid-19 vaccinations whatsoever should receive just a single does as a primary course, the committee advised.
In order to optimise protection over the winter months, the JCVI also recommends that the autumn programme should aim to complete vaccinations by early December 2023.
Given that a vaccination is most effective in the first three months following delivery, this target date aims to provide vulnerable members of the community peak protection during winter, it said.
Chair of Covid-19 immunisation at the JCVI, Professor Wei Shen Lim said that the programme would ‘continue to focus on those at greatest risk of getting seriously ill’.
‘It is important that everyone who is eligible takes up a booster this autumn – helping to prevent them from hospitalisations and deaths arising from the virus over the winter months,’ he added.
JCVI’s recommendation comes shortly after the government proposed to extend legislation created during the pandemic to allow an expanded role for non-traditional vaccinators.
Under the proposed amendments, healthcare assistants and nursing associates would be able to deliver the Covid-19 vaccination outside of pandemic circumstances.
Likewise, the Health and Social Care Select Committee recently advised that nursing students be given an expanded role in the delivery of routine vaccinations to improve uptake.
Dr Mary Ramsay, director of public health programmes at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said: ‘The Covid-19 virus has not gone away and we expect to see it circulating more widely over the winter months with the numbers of people getting ill increasing.
‘The booster is being offered to those at higher risk of severe illness and by taking up the booster vaccine this autumn, you will increase your protection ahead of winter, when respiratory viruses are typically at their peak.’