People at higher risk from Covid will be offered a fourth dose of a vaccine from spring, the government has confirmed.
Over-75s and vulnerable younger people will be offered a second booster jab to help protect against severe symptoms, as revealed on Sunday by The Independent.
The government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised an additional booster, for over-75s and people aged over 12 who are immunocompromised, should be offered the jab six months after their last vaccine.
The vaccines used in the spring programme will be the 50mcg Moderna vaccine or 30mcg Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for adults aged 18 and over.
The JCVI also said a further booster in autumn this year is likely to be advised for those who are at high risk.
The autumn jab campaign is expected to cover a wider group of people than in the spring and could include any new Covid vaccines that are available. It has not yet been decided whether all those currently eligible for an annual flu vaccination will be included.
The news comes as prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to confirm the ending of coronavirus restrictions, in its “living with Covid” strategy on Monday evening.
Plans to better protect Britain’s clinically vulnerable groups come as nearly 20 charities warned that people with immunocompromised systems risk becoming the “pandemic’s forgotten victims” under the government’s strategy for “living with Covid”.
In a statement, health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said: “Today I have accepted the advice from the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to offer, from spring, an additional Covid-19 booster jab to people aged 75 years and over, residents in care homes for older adults, and people aged 12 years and over who are immunosuppressed. All four parts of the UK intend to follow the JCVI’s advice.”
He said the NHS would set out further details on these vaccinations “in due course” and that the JCVI would “keep under review” whether to give boosters to further at risk groups.
The JCVI said that“despite uncertainties around how the pandemic will develop through the summer” it “believes winter is likely to remain the season when the threat from Covid-19 is greatest, both for individuals and the NHS and care homes”.
In a statement, it added: “As such, the JCVI has provided additional interim advice to ministers for the purposes of forward planning that a further booster in the autumn of 2022 is likely to be advised for people who are at higher risk of severe Covid-19.”
Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of Covid vaccination on the JCVI, said: “Last year’s booster vaccination programme has so far provided excellent protection against severe Covid.
“To maintain high levels of protection for the most vulnerable individuals in the population, an extra spring dose of vaccine is advised ahead of an expected autumn booster programme later this year.
“The JCVI will continue its rolling review of the vaccination programme and the epidemiological situation, particularly in relation to the timing and value of doses for less vulnerable older adults and those in clinical risk groups ahead of autumn 2022.”