The Health Secretary said: “There’s evidence that the protection offered by Covid-19 vaccines reduces over time, particularly (among) older people who are at greater risk, so booster doses are an important way of keeping the virus under control for the long-term.”
Who will get Covid booster jabs?
The people eligible for a booster shot of the Covid vaccine include anyone aged 50 and over, people living and working in elderly care homes, and frontline health and social care workers.
It will also be offered to all who are clinically extremely vulnerable and anyone aged 16 to 65 in an at-risk group for Covid.
These are the same people covered by groups one to nine of the Covid vaccine priority list drawn up by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) last September, as below:
- Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
- All those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
- All those 75 years of age and over
- All those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
- All those 65 years of age and over
- All individuals aged 16 to 64 with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
- All those 60 years of age and over
- All those 55 years of age and over
- All those 50 years of age and over
This ranking system was used to determine the first phase of the vaccination roll-out, which has now been extended to the point that 12 to 15-year-old children are being offered the jab.
When there is more data, the JCVI plans to look at whether boosters should also be offered to healthy people under the age of 50, though there is less concern about immunity waning in this age group.
The group’s new guidance appears to differ from its interim advice published in June, which said anyone over 16 who qualifies for a seasonal flu jab would be included in the booster campaign.
This would have included millions of people with asthma, but has been scrapped – so only those in original priority groups one to nine will be offered a booster.
After initially being announced for Wales and England, plans to offer booster jabs to all over-50s were subsequently unveiled by Scotland and Northern Ireland too.
When can you get the booster vaccine?
The Health Secretary said that the NHS would start offering the booster jabs to everyone eligible the from week commencing Monday 20 September.
Guidance from the JCVI, who prepared the advice to ministers, said people should receive their third booster dose at least six months after they received their second dose of a Covid vaccine.
Experts say the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is safe to be given alongside the usual winter flu jab, so people in the eligible groups could be able to get both on the same day – preferable with one shot in each arm.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, said that if he was offered the flu jab and a Covid-19 booster at the same time, he would take it.
He stressed that a Covid booster campaign can offer the prospect of a “normal winter life”, adding that a third vaccine will “keep the lid on things Covid-wise”.
Why will the Pfizer vaccine be used for booster jabs?
Three vaccines were approved as safe and effective as boosters: AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna.
However, experts decided to opt for Pfizer as a preference after studies showed it is well tolerated and works well as a booster – it can be given to people regardless of which vaccine people had previously.
The Moderna jab may be used as an alternative, but as a half-dose booster shot after studies showed it was effective at this dose, with few side-effects. It has proposed a half-dose for boosters in its applications to European and US regulators.
Additional reporting from Press Association