The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended that certain at-risk groups should receive another Covid booster vaccine in the autumn.

Under the ‘interim’ advice, the autumn booster programme would cover ‘more vulnerable adults’ alongside frontline health and social care workers to ‘maintain their protection over the winter against severe Covid-19’, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) announced yesterday.

UKHSA said it is the JCVI’s ‘current view’ that in autumn 2022 a Covid vaccine should be offered to:

  • residents in a care home for older adults and staff
  • frontline health and social care workers
  • all those 65 years of age and over
  • adults aged 16 to 64 years who are in a clinical risk group

It added: ‘As in autumn 2021, the primary objective of the 2022 autumn booster programme will be to increase population immunity and protection against severe Covid-19 disease, specifically hospitalisation and death, over the winter period.’

But it said that the advice ‘should be considered as interim and for the purposes of operational planning for the autumn for the NHS, care homes and wider health community’.

It added: ‘The committee recognises that there is considerable uncertainty with regards to the likelihood, timing and severity of any potential future wave of Covid-19 in the UK in the year ahead.

‘Despite these uncertainties, winter will remain the season when the threat from Covid-19 is greatest for individuals and for health communities.’

It remains unclear who will deliver the programme and what involvement GP practices will have, as the PCN enhanced service is due to expire in September.

Previously, NHS England said that commissioners should plan for a potential autumn booster campaign from September, with a ‘minimum scenario to offer vaccination to JCVI cohorts 1-6 and for a maximum scenario to include JCVI cohorts 1-9’. It did not indicate what level of involvement is expected from GPs.

JCVI chair of Covid-19 vaccination Professor Wei Shen Lim said: ‘Last year’s autumn booster vaccination programme provided excellent protection against severe Covid-19, including against the Omicron variant.

‘We have provided interim advice on an autumn booster programme for 2022 so that the NHS and care homes are able to start the necessary operational planning, to enable high levels of protection for more vulnerable individuals and frontline healthcare staff over next winter.’

He added that ‘further updates to this advice will follow’ as the JCVI continues to ‘review the scientific data’.

The committee will ‘announce its final plans for the autumn programme – including further detail on the definitions of clinical risk groups – in due course’, UKHSA said.

It added that the JCVI will also continue its ‘ongoing review’ of the vaccination programme ‘in relation to the timing and value of doses for less vulnerable older adults and those in clinical risk groups ahead of autumn 2022’.

Meanwhile, UKHSA urged those who are eligible for the spring booster currently being rolled out – the over-75s, care home residents and over-12s who are immunosuppressed – to ‘come forward to ensure they are protected’.

Last week, vaccine leaders urged those eligible to come forward for the vaccine as soon as possible as around one in five over-75s have not yet received a spring Covid booster jab.