Covid booster jabs to start in September alongside flu jabs
The over-70s, care home residents and health care staff could be offered Covid booster jabs from September, alongside flu vaccination where possible, the government has announced. Meanwhile, community pharmacies are waiting to hear about their involvement in the booster programme.
Any potential Covid vaccination booster programme should begin in September, the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisation has advised. Where possible, a synergistic approach to the delivery of Covid-19 and flu vaccinations could support delivery and maximise uptake of both vaccines, the Committee says.
The JCVI advice, which it warns “is interim and may be subject to substantial change”, says that any potential Covid-19 booster programme should be offered in two stages:
Stage 1. High risk groups should be offered a third dose Covid booster vaccine and the annual flu jab as soon as possible from September. This would include:
- adults aged 16 and over who are immunosuppressed
- the elderly living in residential care homes
- all adults aged 70 or over
- adults aged 16 and over who are clinically extremely vulnerable
- frontline health and social care workers.
Stage 2. Other at-risk groups should be offered a third dose Covid booster as soon as practicable after stage 1, with equal emphasis on deployment of the flu vaccine where eligible. This would include:
- all adults aged 50 and over
- adults aged 16-49 who are in an flu or Covid-19 at-risk group
- adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals.
As many younger adults will only receive their second Covid 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 peeople eligible for booster stages 1 and 2 to receive their flu and Covid vaccines in good time. Seasonal influenza and SARS-CoV-2 viruses have the potential to add substantially to the winter pressures usually faced by the NHS, says the JCVI, particularly if infection waves from both viruses coincide.
Final JCVI advice will be published before September and will take into account the latest epidemiological situation, scientific data from trials such as Cov-Boost, along with real-time surveillance of the effectiveness of the vaccines over time and emerging variants.
Apart from the current approved jabs, the UK has placed orders for a range of other Covid vaccines, some of which may become available for use in a booster programme. However, vaccines designed specifically against Covid variants will not be available in time for this autumn.