People at higher risk of developing severe Covid should be given a booster jab this autumn, health officials have recommended.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said that “emergency surge vaccine responses” could also be required to target any “variant of concern” that arises with “clinically significant” differences to Omicron.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the JCVI said that a smaller group of people, such as those who are older or immunosuppressed, should be given an extra booster vaccine dose in the spring.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, Chair of Covid-19 vaccination on the JCVI, said: “The COVID-19 vaccination programme continues to reduce severe disease across the population, while helping to protect the NHS.
“That is why we have advised planning for further booster vaccines for persons at higher risk of serious illness through an autumn booster programme later this year.
“We will very shortly also provide final advice on a spring booster programme for those at greatest risk.”
Nearly two-thirds (64.5 per cent) of those aged 50 and over have received their most recent autumn booster since the beginning of the campaign in September last year. A total of 82.4 per cent of those aged 75 and over had received a jab, according to the most recent coverage data.
The JCVI said that the third dose offered to all adults in 2021 should close “in alignment” with the close of the autumn 2022 booster vaccination campaign.
Both campaigns will come to an end on February 12, the JCVI said.
At present anyone who was aged five or over on August 31, 2022 can still get their primary course – a first and second jab - at walk-in centres or by using the NHS’s national booking service.
Those who have not received either jab are “strongly encouraged” to come forward.
No date has been set for the end of the universal programme but it will happen at some point during 2023.
Steve Russell, director of vaccinations and screening at NHS England, said: “Over the last two years the NHS Covid vaccination programme has administered almost 145 million doses and as a result, the public have widespread protection from Covid-19 and its variants – a remarkable achievement.
“Following the decision by the Government to accept JCVI advice today, I would encourage anyone who has not yet had their Covid booster to book an appointment in the next couple of weeks and make the most of the offer available.
“Once the NHS receives updated guidance for the next phase of the vaccination programme, our fantastic NHS staff will make sure the vaccine is as accessible and convenient to those eligible as it has been in each of the previous campaigns.”