The Government has announced that a COVID-19 booster vaccine will be offered this autumn.

The programme will be rolled out to the same priority groups as previously. This means care home residents, health and social care workers, people aged over 50, those aged 16 to 49 years with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19, adult carers, and adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals will be prioritised.

However, there will be flexibility in the programme, allowing all those eligible to receive their booster at the same time as long as it is six months after their second doses.

The move will ensure the protection vaccines provide for those most at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 will be maintained over the winter months. Data published by ONS yesterday shows people who haven’t been vaccinated account for around 99% of all deaths involving COVID-19 in England in the first half of this year.

People will be offered either a full dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine or a half dose of the Moderna vaccine, following scientific evidence showing that both provide a strong booster response. This will be regardless of which vaccine the individual previously had.

Where neither can be offered, for example for those who have an allergy to either vaccine, the JCVI advise that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine can be used for those who received this vaccine for their first and second doses.

Vaccinations will be offered in hospital hubs, vaccination centres, local vaccination services and pharmacy led services.

People will start to be contacted over the coming weeks to offer them an appointment – and we are expecting that people will be able to use the national booking service as well in due course.

The JCVI has also advised that the flu and COVID-19 vaccines can be co-administered (given together). The national programme is now considering if this is appropriate or whether doing both together will delay people coming forward for their flu jabs, which are underway now.

It is important people take up the offer of both vaccines when they receive it, so people are encouraged to get both vaccinations as soon as possible rather than waiting for the possibility of getting them together.

Flu vaccination remains a priority. It has been recommended for staff and vulnerable groups in the UK since the late 1960s, with the average number of estimated deaths in England for the five seasons 2015 to 2020 at over 11,000 deaths annually. During the 2019/2020 winter season, 86% of deaths associated with flu were people aged 65 and over.

Read more on the Government advice and the national announcement.

16 September 2021