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Most recent JCVI advice on Covid-19 vaccine boosters, February 2022

On 21 February 2022, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended a “Spring dose” of Covid-19 vaccine should be offered, approximately 6 months after the last Covid-19 vaccine dose, to:

  • adults aged 75 years and over;
  • residents in a care home for older adults;
  • individuals aged 12 years and over who are immunosuppressed.

The Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, later confirmed that all four parts of the UK intended to follow the JCVI’s advice. The spring booster campaign began on 21 March 2022 in England and is expected to run until the early summer.  The ‘Spring dose’ will be a fourth dose (a second booster) for those in the first two groups and a fifth dose for those who are immunosuppressed. NHS England estimates that around 5 million people will be eligible for a spring booster dose. The JCVI has also advised 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.

JCVI advice on Covid-19 vaccine boosters following the emergence of the Omicron variant, November 2021

In response to the emergence of the Omicron variant, the JCVI updated its Covid-19 vaccine advice on 29 November 2021. It stated that booster eligibility should be expanded to “include all adults aged 18 years to 39 years”, with a booster offered no earlier than 3 months (rather than the originally advised 6 months) after receiving a second dose of Covid-19 vaccine. Prior to this recommendation, the booster programme was open to those aged 40 years and over.  In addition, the JCVI advised that severely immunosuppressed individuals who had received 3 primary doses of Covid-19 vaccine should be offered a booster (a fourth dose) “with a minimum of 3 months between the third primary and booster dose”.

While the JCVI stated that “booster vaccination should now be offered in order of descending age groups” the Prime Minister announced on 12 December 2021 that, as of 13 December, the booster programme would be opened up “to every adult over 18 who has had a second dose of the vaccine at least three months ago”. He added that walk-in centres would accept over 18s for a booster from 13 December, while the National Booking System would allow all over 18s to book an appointment from 15 December.

Background

The UK began its Covid-19 vaccine roll-out in December 2020. The vaccination programme progressed in two main phases, with prioritisation primarily based on age. During Phase 1, those aged 50 years and over, frontline health and social care workers and individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions (which put them at a higher risk of serious disease and mortality), were prioritised. During Phase 2, the age-based approach continued, starting with those aged 40-49 and ending with the 18-29 age group. Covid-19 vaccines have also been offered to those aged 12-17 years and first doses are now available to those aged 5-11 years. To date, the three Covid-19 vaccines that have been authorised by the UK medicines regulator (the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency – MHRA) and rolled-out, have required two doses to complete the primary vaccine course.

As Phase 2 of the roll-out nears completion, attention has turned to whether the primary Covid-19 vaccine course requires any additional ‘booster dose’ namely the administration of third dose. Following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the Government initially agreed to offer booster doses to individuals who received vaccination in Phase 1 of the Covid-19 vaccination programme (priority groups 1-9), no earlier than 6 months after completion of their primary course. In November 2021, the JCVI updated its advice, stating that all adults aged 40-49 years should also be offered a Covid-19 booster vaccination, 6 months after their second dose.

Links to resources and guidance on the Covid-19 vaccine booster programme published by the UK Health Security Agency, the NHS and other health bodies are set out in Section 1 of the briefing. These sources and others have been used to address commonly asked questions about the Covid-19 booster vaccine programme. These will be updated as needed.

Details about the initial roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, including information on vaccine safety, can be found in the Commons Library briefing paper on Coronavirus: Covid-19 vaccine roll-out frequently asked questions. Parliamentary resources on Covid-19 vaccination from the House of Commons and House of Lords Libraries, and from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology can be accessed from the Vaccination and Covid-19 landing page.

The information in this briefing is not medical advice, or a substitute for medical advice. Individuals seeking advice on their own medical treatment should consult their GP or use the NHS 111 service (in England). For the latest official guidance on Coronavirus and the Covid-19 booster vaccination programme please consult the NHS Coronavirus (COVID-19) booster vaccine and UK Health Security Agency Green Book guidance.


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