Covid-19 booster jabs could begin for 32m Brits in September

30 June 2021, 18:00

The UK is the first country in the world to publish interim guidance on a Covid-19 vaccine booster campaign
The UK is the first country in the world to publish interim guidance on a Covid-19 vaccine booster campaign. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

A Covid-19 vaccination booster programme could begin for 32 million Brits as soon as September, officials have said.

Experts advising the Government have set out the priority list for who should get a third jab if a booster programme is needed.

The interim plans have been drawn up so that the NHS can prepare while officials wait for more data on whether a third vaccine is required to bolster protection over the winter months.

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It will coincide with the rollout of flu jabs, which health officials have said will be vital this winter as they prepare for a potentially difficult influenza season.

The UK is the first country in the world to publish such guidance on a Covid-19 vaccine booster campaign, though a number of other countries are considering proposals.

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The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) interim guidance sets out two stages for the Covid-19 booster programme:

  • The first stage will see 15 million of the most vulnerable people across the UK offered a booster including over-70s, health and care workers, older care home residents, the clinically extremely vulnerable (those who were asked to shield previously), and people who are immunocompromised.
  • The second stage will extend to a further 17 million people including over-50s, adults over the age of 16 who usually are offered a free NHS flu jab, those aged 16-49 in a Covid at-risk group, and people who are in regular contact with someone who is immunocompromised.

Officials have stressed a third vaccine may not be needed but scientific advisers to the Government have said they are "taking no chances" and want to give the health service as much time as possible to plan.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, Covid-19 chairman for the committee, 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.

"We will continue to review emerging scientific data over the next few months, including data relating to the duration of immunity from the current vaccines. Our final advice on booster vaccination may change substantially."

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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.

"Our first Covid-19 vaccination programme is restoring freedom in this country, and our booster programme will protect this freedom."

People will be offered a single jab as a booster, so the rollout will be logistically easier for the NHS.

It is not yet known whether people will be offered the same vaccine, or a different one, but advisers said "all possibilities are on the table".

Officials will know more when they get results from the CovBoost trial, which is expected to report back in August.

Experts previously said it was too early to say whether other people not listed in Stage 1 or Stage 2 will need a Covid-19 vaccine booster this winter.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, said: "The announcement of interim advice from JCVI is good news. It shows that the vaccine experts are thinking carefully about how best to use vaccination to protect the most vulnerable and ensure everyone's lives can remain as normal as possible for the autumn and winter.

"Of course, we have to be driven by data, and there will be more data from vaccine booster studies for JCVI to look at over summer, so we should all remember that this advice is interim and might change between now and September."

The final JCVI guidance will be set out before September.

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