Almost half of the adult population will be eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine booster jab, should scientists decide they are needed.
Here are answers to your questions about the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) interim guidance on a booster campaign.
– What is this guidance?
Vaccine experts advising the Government have set out new interim advice detailing what a Covid-19 vaccine booster campaign will look like, should it be needed.
This includes information about when a potential booster campaign should start and who would be first in line for a third Covid-19 jab.
– When will the booster campaign start?
If it does start, it will begin in September.
But experts have stressed that the campaign might not actually be needed and the initial jabs might be enough to protect people through the winter.
Experts will know more about the length of time people are afforded protection from the vaccines in coming weeks as more clinical trial data comes in.
– Would I get a jab?
If you have been classed as vulnerable to Covid-19 because of your age, job or a health condition then yes. Some people are also being offered a booster to protect others. The proposals suggest that a two-stage approach would be best, with the most vulnerable offered the jab first.
– Who would be eligible first?
The JCVI said that in Stage 1 of a potential booster vaccination programme, the following groups should be offered a booster dose and the flu vaccine from September:
– all adults aged 70 or over
– those living in care homes for older adults
– frontline health and social care workers
– adults aged 16 years and over who are immunosuppressed
– adults aged 16 years and over who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable
– Who would be next in line?
People in Stage 2 should be offered a booster dose as soon as practicable after Stage 1, with “equal emphasis on the flu vaccine where eligible”, the JCVI said.
This would include:
– all adults aged 50 and over
– all adults aged 16 to 49 years who are in an influenza or Covid-19 at-risk group
– adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals
– How many people would get a jab?
Around 32 million across the UK, roughly 48% of the population.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that there were around 15 million people who would be called forward in Stage 1, and 17 million in Stage 2.
– Do we definitely need an extra jab?
The interim advice set out by the JCVI has been put together to help the NHS plan for a booster campaign.
But it does not mean that one is necessarily needed.
People can lose some of the protection afforded by vaccines either by waning immunity over time or the emergence of new variants which can escape the protection given by vaccines.
But at the moment it is unclear whether immunity is waning.
The DHSC said there was good evidence that two doses of any Covid-19 vaccine used in the UK would provide strong protection against severe disease for at least six months for the majority, and there was some evidence that longer lasting protection may be afforded to some.
And the current jabs seem to be doing a pretty good job in the face of the new Delta variant.
Scientists expect the results of studies in coming weeks which should indicate how well the vaccines are standing the test of time.
They will also consider other information such as new variants of concern.
– Would I be offered the same jab as the one I received previously?
It is not yet known whether people would be offered the same vaccine again, or a different jab, but advisers said that “all possibilities are on the table” until more data is available from clinical trials.
Officials will know more when they get results from the CovBoost trial, which is expected to report back in August.
– Do we need to be double-jabbed again?
People will be offered a single jab as a booster, so the rollout of the programme will be logistically easier for the NHS, and more convenient for those attending appointments.
– I would not qualify in Stage 1 or Stage 2, does that mean I would not get a booster?
Experts have said that it is too early to say whether other people not listed in Stage 1 or Stage 2 will need a Covid-19 vaccine booster this winter. Some younger adults will only just have received their second dose.
The JCVI will consider the benefits of a booster for other people “at a later time when more information is available”.
– Would it be administered at the same time as the flu jab?
The proposed booster campaign would coincide with the flu jab programme in terms of timing.
Experts have said that “where possible, a synergistic approach to the delivery of Covid-19 and influenza vaccination could support delivery and maximise uptake of both vaccines”.
– Would the booster campaign include so-called variant vaccines?
A variant vaccine is designed to target a specific variant of a virus which is in circulation. The JCVI has said that vaccines designed specifically against variants of concern will not be available in time for booster revaccination this autumn.
– When will we know more?
The JCVI will set out plans before September. But it warned that the current advice was precautionary and could change “substantially”.