All patients in groups 1-9 of the first phase of the Covid vaccination campaign should have a booster jab six months after their second dose, the JCVI has said.
This includes everyone over 50 and people with underlying health conditions which make them vulnerable to Covid.
It also includes adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals.
Meanwhile, medicines regulator MHRA has determined that co-administration of flu and Covid jabs is safe and can go ahead.
The Government has accepted the advice, with jabs to begin ‘next week’, health secretary Sajid Javid has told MPs this afternoon.
Under-50s may not need a Covid booster jab necessarily, because they usually mount a stronger immune response, the JCVI added in a briefing this morning. However, this will be reviewed ‘at a later date’.
The JCVI recommends the use of an mRNA vaccine for use in the campaign. This should be a full dose of the Pfizer vaccine, in the first instance, or half dose of the Moderna vaccine as an alternative, it added.
Astra Zeneca’s Covid vaccine, which has also been approved for booster use, can be considered in cases where a patient has an allergy to Pfizer and Moderna.
The booster dose should be given no earlier than six months after the second dose, with patients to be prioritised in the same order as during the first phase of of the Covid vaccination campaign.
Deputy CMO Professor Jonathan Van Tam said he expects the NHS, which has been preparing for months, to be able to begin the booster campaign within ‘days’.
JCVI chair of Covid-19 immunisation Professor Wei Shen Lim said: ‘The UK’s Covid-19 vaccination programme has been hugely successful in protecting people against hospitalisation and death, and the main aim of the booster programme is to prolong that protection and reduce serious disease as we head towards the colder months.
‘The JCVI is advising that a booster dose be offered to the more vulnerable, to maximise individual protection ahead of an unpredictable winter. Most of these people will also be eligible for the annual flu vaccine and we strongly advise them to take up this offer as well.’
The JCVI stressed the recommendation does not mean a booster will be needed every six months, but is very specific for this winter.
‘If we can protect the NHS, we will save lives,’ Professor Lim added.
Regarding co-administration, the Department of Health and Social Care said in a statement that the NHS will now ‘consider where it’s appropriate’ to use in order to ‘support’ the rollout.
However, the DHSC stressed that people should ‘take up the offer of both vaccines when they receive it’, with people ‘encouraged to get both vaccinations as soon as possible rather than waiting for the possibility of getting them together’.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘Our vaccine rollout has been phenomenal. It’s vital that we do everything we can to prolong the protection our vaccines offer, particularly for those most vulnerable to Covid-19 as we head into the autumn and winter months.
‘I have today accepted the advice from the independent experts at the JCVI to offer a booster vaccine to those most at risk.
‘The booster programme will start next week thanks to the extensive preparations the NHS has already made to ensure booster jabs can be rolled out as quickly as possible.’
The JCVI laid out interim advice on the order of priority for groups receiving their third vaccine dose in June, with GPs among the top priority groups.
It comes as third jabs for immunosuppressed patients were already recommended, with GPs helping to identify eligible patients to receive the jab from this week.
‘I urge all those eligible to get their Covid-19 and flu vaccines as soon as they can, so you have the strongest possible protection over the winter months.’
JCVI priority groups:
- residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
- all those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
- all those 75 years of age and over
- all those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
- all those 65 years of age and over
- all individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
- all those 60 years of age and over
- all those 55 years of age and over
- all those 50 years of age and over