COVID booster shot plans underway for September

The JCVI is planning for millions of people to receive a COVID booster shot in September in preparation for the winter.

A coronavirus booster rollout planis underway with interim guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) that sees millions of vulnerable residents prioritised for a third jab.

The guidance from the JCVI has been provided to ensure that the NHS will be as prepared as possible if a third vaccine rollout is required this September to provide extra protection for the winter.

Though a number of other countries are already considering a booster rollout, the UK is the first to put forward a plan for the third wave of inoculation. The JCVI will release their advice before September and consider various factors like COVID rates and data from trials, as well as real-time results from vaccine effectiveness.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid explained: ‘Our first COVID-19 vaccination programme is restoring freedom in this country, and our booster programme will protect this freedom.’

We are working with the NHS to make sure we can rapidly deliver this programme to maintain protection for people in the winter months.

Who is first in line for the COVID booster vaccines?

Just like the current coronavirus vaccine rollout, jabs will be offered to people in stages, with each step prioritising a different group of residents. The first stage of the booster plan will offer jabs to those most at risk from COVID and influenza from September 2021.

Those prioritised in the first phase include:

  • Adults aged 16 and over who are immunosuppressed
  • Adults over the age of 70
  • Care home residents
  • Frontline healthcare and social care workers
  • Adults aged 16 and over who are considered extremely vulnerable

Those offered the booster in the second phase include:

  • Adults aged 50 and over
  • Those aged 16-49 who are considered to be at risk for influenza or COVID as per the Green Book
  • Adult household contacts of immunosuppressed people

An emphasis on a potentially nasty flu season

The third rollout will coincide with this year’s flu jabs which experts warn is necessary when facing the coming flu season due to waning immunity and the potential for COVID measures to cease.

England's deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam explained: ‘We want to be on the front foot for COVID-19 booster vaccination to keep the probability of loss of vaccine protection due to waning immunity or variants as low as possible.’

Fewer or no restrictions will mean that other respiratory viruses, particularly flu, will make a comeback and quite possibly be an additional problem this winter, so we will need to ensure protection against flu as well as maintaining protection against COVID-19.

The Guardian recently reported that around 7,000 people in the UK die each year from influenza. And, while cases of the virus have dropped over the last year due to lockdowns and COVID measures, our immunity to the common flu may not be as strong as it used to be.

By aligning the COVID booster rollout with the flu vaccines, the UK can then prepare for this possibility and protect residents who are most vulnerable to both viruses.

COVID booster shots for over-50s to be rolled out by autumn COVID booster shots for over-50s to be rolled out by autumn