Advanced nurse practitioner Justine Williams (L) administers a dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine to 82-year-old James Shaw (file photo) (Image: Getty Images)
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Vulnerable Brits will be asked to have a Covid booster vaccine every year in future, a top government advisor predicted today.
Prof Adam Finn said the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) – of which he is a member – is still deciding whether to roll out third doses from September.
But expectations are growing that vulnerable and older Brits could have a Covid and flu vaccine in each arm at the same time.
Prof Finn experts were "very concerned" there will be a very large flu epidemic this winter and people needed to be able to get their Covid and flu jabs in the same visit.
Last night the JCVI confirmed that if there is a Covid booster programme, more than 30million people will be eligible – including all over-50s and the vulnerable.
Asked if getting an annual booster jab like flu would be "the future now", Prof Finn told BBC Breakfast: "I think it is, but possibly not for everybody.
Third Covid-19 booster jab to be given to elderly and vulnerable from September
"And of course the uncertainty will reduce as time goes by, and we’re already seeing how much of an ongoing problem we have with this virus and how it behaves and evolves.
"But I think it’s highly likely we’ll go on seeing people getting infection of this virus in the future, and the need to immunise people, particularly people who are vulnerable to getting seriously ill with it, yes."
Any booster programme in the autumn will follow two stages which are closely related to the first groups who got the Covid jab earlier this year.
Stage one would include:
- Immunosuppressed or clinically extremely vulnerable adults over 16
- Older care home residents
- Frontline health and social care workers
Stage two would include:
- Under-50s who are in a flu or Covid at-risk group
- Adult household contacts of immunosuppressed people
People enter a Covid-19 vaccination centre in London
(Image: ANDY RAIN/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
The JCVI delivered its interim advice on booster jab rollout while its scientists continue to analyse immunity data over the summer.
They are now convinced vaccine protection lasts at least six months for most people.
But Prof Finn said clearer data should emerge in the coming weeks.
If deemed necessary in the JCVI’s final advice, the first stage of boosters will be given the green light over the summer.
The UK is on track to offer a first dose to all adults by July 19, two weeks earlier than planned.
The JCVI is still considering whether to offer Covid-19 jabs to those under-18.
SAGE member Prof Calum Semple today said the evidence was still too finely balanced about whether to offer jabs to children.
Prof Wei Shen Lim, Covid-19 chair for JCVI, said: “The primary objective of any potential Covid-19 booster vaccine programme should be to reduce serious disease, including death.
“The JCVI’s interim advice is that, should a booster programme be required, a third vaccine dose should be offered to the most vulnerable first, starting from September 2021 to maximise individual protection and safeguard the NHS ahead of winter.
“Almost all these people would also be eligible for the annual flu vaccine and are strongly advised to have the flu vaccine.
“We will continue to review emerging scientific data over the next few months, including data relating to the duration of immunity from the current vaccines.
“Our final advice on booster vaccination may change substantially.”