Millions of clinically vulnerable people could receive their Covid booster vaccine alongside their flu vaccine as early as September, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced.
This comes as the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) published its interim advice, laying out which cohorts the Government should prioritise for a third dose in the autumn.
The advisory body has proposed that the booster vaccine be delivered in two stages, alongside the annual flu vaccination programme, to extend protection of those most vulnerable to Covid over the winter period, and to defend against new variants, the Government said.
The first group should be offered a Covid-19 booster vaccine and the annual flu jab ‘as soon as possible from September 2021,’ the JVCI have said. The second cohort is to be offered both ‘as soon as practicable after Stage 1’.
‘Further details of the flu vaccination programme will be set out in due course,’ the Government update said.
The first group to be vaccinated includes:
● adults aged 16 years and over who are immunosuppressed
● those living in residential care homes for older adults
● all adults aged 70 years or over
● adults aged 16 years and over who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable
● frontline health and social care workers.
The second group includes:
● all adults aged 50 years and over
● all adults aged 16 – 49 years who are in a flu or Covid-19 at-risk group as outlined in the Green Book
● adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals.
A final version of the guidance will be published ahead of September and will take into account the results of trials, such as Cov-Boost and the current epidemiological situation.
‘The final advice could change from the interim advice as further data is analysed,’ the Government said.
‘As most younger adults will receive their second Covid-19 vaccine dose in late summer, the benefits of booster vaccination in this group will be considered by the JCVI at a later time when more information is available,’ the update added.
Pharmacies are expected to play a large part in the rollout of the booster vaccination programme after Matt Hancock — then health secretary — said in a conference last week that he expected to ‘move more of it to administration by pharmacies’.
This comes as peer-reviewed research by Aston University suggested that community pharmacies could be key players in an annual rollout of the Covid booster vaccine.
Pharmacy bodies have also called for community pharmacies to play a ‘significant role’ in the Covid booster vaccine delivery plan.
Commenting on the update, 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.
‘We need to learn to live with this virus. Our first Covid-19 vaccination programme is restoring freedom in this country, and our booster programme will protect this freedom. We are working with the NHS to make sure we can rapidly deliver this programme to maintain protection for people in the winter months.’