Government’s vaccines committee recommends autumn Covid jabs

Government’s vaccines committee recommends autumn Covid jabs
Despite uncertainty over future Covid waves, winter will be when the threat from the virus is greatest, officials say

Autumn Covid jabs should be rolled out to vulnerable groups and health and social care staff, the government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has said.

In a statement on Thursday as part of interim advice to the government, the JCVI said despite there being “considerable uncertainty” over the likelihood and severity of future Covid waves, winter will continue to be a season when the threat from Covid is greatest.

It said the aim for an autumn 2022 Covid booster programme would be to increase “population immunity and protection” against severe Covid disease, hospitalisation and death during winter.

The committee said the vaccines should be given to residents in care homes for older adults, frontline health and social care workers, all those aged 65 and over, and adults aged 16 to 64 within clinically at-risk groups.

The Department of Health and Social Care said it welcomed the advice and will consider the group’s final recommendations later this year.

It added: “We have asked the NHS in England to begin preparations to ensure they are ready to deploy Covid vaccines to those eligible.”

Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of the Covid-19 vaccination on the JCVI, said: “Last year’s autumn booster vaccination programme provided excellent protection against severe COVID-19, including against the Omicron variant.

“We have provided interim advice on an autumn booster programme for 2022 so that the NHS and care homes are able to start the necessary operational planning, to enable high levels of protection for more vulnerable individuals and frontline healthcare staff over next winter.

“As we continue to review the scientific data, further updates to this advice will follow.”

In an update on Covid-19 cases, the UK Health Security Agency said there had been 127 suspected outbreaks across the UK in the past week, compared to 198 in the week before.

Dr Mary Ramsay, director of clinical programmes at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said: “Whilst Covid hospital admissions continue to decline it is important that we do not become complacent. If you’ve yet to take up the offer of vaccine or have missed your latest jab please come forward now; vaccines continue to offer the best protection against severe illness.

“If you are in a crowded enclosed space it is sensible to wear a face covering, and remember to keep washing your hands regularly. If you have any symptoms of a respiratory infection, and a high temperature or feel unwell, try to stay at home or away from others – especially elderly or vulnerable people.”