We take a look at who is covered by the latest recommendations from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation
What boosters are available now?
At present everyone aged five years and over is eligible for two doses of a Covid jab – the primary course – with a booster jab available for everyone aged 16 and over, as well as people aged 12 to 15 who are at high risk from Covid.
Some people, for example those with severely weakened immune systems, require three doses of a Covid vaccine as their primary course, so their first booster would be a fourth dose.
A second booster is currently available for adults aged 75 and over, residents in care homes for older adults and those aged 12 and over who are immunosuppressed.
What is planned for this autumn?
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) issued its final recommendations for the autumn Covid booster programme on Friday.
Interim advice published in May had suggested these jabs would be available for residents and staff at care homes for older people, frontline health and social care workers, all those aged 65 and over, and at-risk adults aged 16 to 64.
However, the final recommendations for eligibility are broader, also including all people aged 50 and over, people aged five to 49 who are household contacts of people who are immunosuppressed, and people aged five to 49 with underlying health conditions, including pregnant women. It will also include people aged 16 to 49 years who are carers.
The autumn booster programme is expected to begin in September, with vaccines offered first to the most at-risk groups and the elderly. The hope is that it will help to protect the vulnerable against severe disease and death.
While for most people aged 50 to under 75 the autumn booster will be their fourth dose, for some elderly or clinically vulnerable people the jab may be their fifth or even sixth dose of a Covid vaccine.
While the JCVI’s advice applies to the whole UK, it is up to each devolved administration whether to accept it. England already has.
Which vaccines will be in the booster programme?
That has yet to be announced. While both Pfizer and Moderna have tweaked their vaccines to better tackle Omicron, their new jabs have yet to be approved by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – a crucial step before they could be recommended by the JCVI for the autumn booster programme.
Are further boosters likely?
It is possible. It is known that immunity to Covid wanes over time, including protection offered by vaccines, while there have already been three waves of Covid in 2022, with the current wave continuing and another expected in the autumn. However who would be eligible for a further dose, and when, remains unclear.
What about flu jabs?
With Australia experiencing a bad flu season, there are concerns the UK could face a similar challenge this winter, putting further pressure on healthcare services.
As such, the Department for Health and Social Care has said flu jabs will be offered in England to all children aged two or three, primary school aged children, those aged 65 years and over, those aged six months to 65 years in clinical risk groups, and pregnant women. Flu jabs will also be offered to close contacts of immunocompromised individuals, people living in care homes, carers and certain other social care workers.
Once these groups have been vaccinated, flu jabs will be offered to all adults aged 50 to 64 years, as well as secondary school children in years 7, 8 and 9, beginning with the youngest.