Published by BBC NEWS - 19th May 2022

Margaret Keenan being given a vaccine by a nurse

Image source, Getty Images

At-risk groups should be given a booster Covid vaccine dose this autumn, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised.

The body suggested government offer the jabs to over-65s, health and care staff and clinically vulnerable adults aged 16-64.

The JCVI said this would top up levels of protection for the winter.

The provisional guidance is designed to give the NHS and care homes time to plan.

At the moment, a narrower group is being offered a spring booster:

  • The over-75s
  • Residents in care homes for older adults
  • People aged 12 and over who are immunosuppressed

Those are the people considered to be the most vulnerable to severe disease and death should they catch Covid.

Most receiving a booster now will be offered a further vaccine in the autumn, roughly six months later.

The wider group – of less vulnerable older adults, frontline health and social care workers and those who have health conditions but are not severely immune compromised – will be receiving their booster roughly a year on from their last jab.

Prof Jonathan Ball, a virologist at the University of Nottingham, said it seemed like a “sensible approach”.

“We know that immunity to Covid-19 following vaccination or indeed infection contracts over time”, he said, and this would give people most at risk from severe disease a “boost just before virus circulation is likely to pick up during autumn and winter months”.

But, he added, timing was important to make sure people received their extra jabs before virus circulation started to rise.

The JCVI offers recommendations to the whole of the UK, but leaders in the four nations each decide whether to act on it.

The Scottish and Welsh governments have confirmed their plans to act in line with the vaccine committee’s advice.

After being offered three doses, the JCVI is not currently recommending that younger people and those who aren’t at high risk receive a booster at this point.

But the body said it would continue to review the situation.

Chair of the Covid vaccination committee Prof Wei Shen Lim, said: “Last year’s autumn booster vaccination programme provided excellent protection against severe Covid-19, including against the Omicron variant.

“As we continue to review the scientific data, further updates to this advice will follow.”

Though they make up a small fraction of the population, unvaccinated people account for a disproportionately large number of intensive-care admissions.

Governments in England and Northern Ireland have not yet confirmed to the BBC whether they plan to take up the recommendations.

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