In August 2023 the UKHSA shared an announcement from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) regarding who will be eligible for a further COVID-19 booster vaccination in the coming months. As the COVID-19 vaccination programme “is now entering its third autumn season”, boosters continue to be recommended for certain groups to “protect against severe illness, hospitalisations, and deaths”.
“The advice for this autumn is to offer the vaccine to those at high risk of serious disease and who are therefore most likely to benefit from vaccination.”
Who is eligible for a vaccine?
The following groups will be offered a booster vaccine in the autumn:
- Residents in a care home for older adults
- All adults aged 65 and over
- Persons aged 6 months to 64 years in a clinical risk group, as indicated by the Immunisation Green Book, COVID-19 chapter
- Frontline health and social care workers
- Persons aged 12 to 64 years who are household contacts (as defined in the Green Book) of people with immunosuppression
- Persons aged 16 to 64 who are carers (as defined in the Green Book) and staff working in care homes for older adults
The guidelines on choice of vaccine products for use in the autumn will be provided at a later stage. JCVI has advised that the programme should be completed by early December 2023, in the knowledge that greatest protection is offered in the first 3 months after vaccination. However, it also recognises that there is a need for “operational flexibility”, particularly considering factors like vaccine supply.
Focusing on risk
Professor Wei Shen Lim, Chair of COVID-19 immunisation on the JCVI, commented that the booster programme continues to focus on “those at greatest risk of getting seriously ill”.
“It is important that everyone who is eligible takes up a booster this autumn – helping to prevent them from hospitalisations and deaths arising from the virus over the winter months.”
Dr Mary Ramsay, Director of Public Health Programmes at UKHSA, agreed that the virus has “not gone away” and is expected to circulate “more widely over the winter months”.
“The booster is being offered to those at higher risk of severe illness and by taking up the booster vaccine this autumn, you will increase your protection ahead of winter, when respiratory viruses are typically at their peak.”
Data from last year’s autumn programme demonstrate that those who received a booster were roughly 53% less likely to be admitted to hospital with COVID-19 between 2-4 weeks after vaccination, compared to those who did not receive a booster.
Although the narrative around boosters varies, some have taken to social media to question whether people who are not considered at risk will be able to buy a booster, like annual flu vaccines.
Are you eligible for a booster in the UK or your country of residence, and if so, will you take it?
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