Over 75s, residents in care homes for older adults, and over 12s who are immunosuppressed will be offered a further COVID-19 vaccination this spring, it has been confirmed. Previously, only people with severely weakened immune systems had been eligible for a fourth dose.
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The governments of all four UK countries accepted a recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) that these groups receive an additional vaccine, six months after their last dose, to maintain their protection against severe COVID-19.
Adults aged over 18 will receive either the Pfizer (Comirnaty) or Moderna (Spikevax) mRNA vaccines, and those aged 12 to 18 will be offered the Pfizer jab.
The JCVI has also indicated that a further booster programme will be needed this autumn to protect all groups that are more vulnerable to the virus ahead of the winter 'when the threat from COVID-19 is greatest'.
The JCVI said it was too early to say which groups would be covered by the autumn booster programme, but added that it would continue to review the 'timing and value' of doses for other older adults and those in clinical risk groups to determine if additional vaccines were required for these cohorts before that time.
The JCVI's latest advice highlights that immunity from the COVID-19 vaccine wanes over time and that many people covered by the recommendation will have received their last vaccine in September or October last year.
'These individuals are at much higher risk of severe COVID-19,' the committee said. 'Therefore, as a precautionary strategy to maintain high levels of immunity, an extra spring dose is advised around six months after the last vaccine dose.'
JCVI chair Professor Wei Shen Lim said: 'Last year’s booster vaccination programme has so far provided excellent protection against severe COVID-19. To maintain high levels of protection for the most vulnerable individuals in the population, an extra spring dose of vaccine is advised ahead of an expected autumn booster programme later this year.
'The JCVI will continue its rolling review of the vaccination programme and the epidemiological situation, particularly in relation to the timing and value of doses for less vulnerable older adults and those in clinical risk groups ahead of autumn 2022.'