In its interim advice to government on the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination program for 2023, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) has advised that plans should be made for those at higher risk of severe COVID-19 to be offered a booster vaccination this autumn (2023).
The JCVI also advised that for a smaller group of people, such as those who are older and those who are immunosuppressed, an extra booster vaccine dose in the spring should also be planned for. Advice regarding the spring 2023 COVID-19 program will be provided shortly.
Emergency surge vaccine responses may be required should a novel variant of concern emerge with clinically significant biological differences compared to the Omicron variant.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, Chair of COVID-19 vaccination on the JCVIsaid:
The COVID-19 vaccination program 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 program later this year.
We will very shortly also provide final advice on a spring booster program for those at greatest risk.
The 2022 COVID-19 autumn booster vaccination campaign commenced in early September last year. The most recent coverage data (15 January 2023) of the autumn booster program in those aged 50 years and over is 64.5% and 82.4% in those aged 75 years and over. By the end of summer 2022, the coverage of the 2022 spring booster program was 77.3% in those aged 75 years and over.
Following high uptake rates for the initial (third) booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine in December 2021, further uptake has been low at less than 0.1% per week since April 2022 in all eligible people under 50 years of age.
Similarly, uptake of primary course vaccination, which has been widely available since 2021, has plateaued in recent months across all age groups.
As the transition continues away from a pandemic emergency response towards pandemic recovery, the JCVI has advised that the 2021 booster offer (third dose) for persons aged 16 to 49 years who are not in a clinical risk group should close in alignment with the close of the autumn 2022 booster vaccination campaign.
In England, the closure of the autumn booster campaign and the first booster offer will be on 12 February 2023. We strongly encourage everyone who is currently eligible for a first booster and is yet to come forward to do so before the offer closes.
Similarly, the JCVI is advising that the primary course COVID-19 vaccination should move, over the course of 2023, towards a more targeted offer during vaccination campaigns to protect those persons at higher risk of severe COVID-19. We strongly encourage individuals who have not had a primary course to come forward for their primary course before the offer closes.
The JCVI keeps all advice under constant review and will revise it according to the latest data and evidence.
In its 2023 statement, the JCVI also advises that research should be considered to inform the optimal timing of booster vaccinations to protect against severe COVID-19 for groups who are at different levels of clinical risk.