COVID-19 Autumn booster and flu vaccine programme expansion

NHS England has set out plans to offer a COVID-19 booster vaccine to all over 50s, vulnerable people and carers this Autumn and Winter along with the flu vaccine.

Final Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advice on 15th July confirms that the COVID-19 Autumn booster should be offered to the following groups:

• Residents in a care home for older adults and staff working in care homes for older adults
• Frontline health and social care workers
• All adults aged 50 years and over
• Persons aged 5 to 49 years in a clinical risk group
• Persons aged 5 to 49 years who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression
• Persons aged 16 to 49 years who are carers.

The flu vaccine

The government has also announced that, in addition to flu vaccine cohorts previously set out in the annual flu letter 2022/23, the following cohorts will now be offered the free NHS flu vaccine to help protect more people and reduce admissions to hospital this winter.

• Secondary school children in years 7, 8 and 9 who will be offered the vaccine in order of school year (starting with the youngest first). This group are likely to be offered vaccination later in the year once children age 2 and 3 and primary school age children have been vaccinated.

• 50 to 64 year olds that are not in a clinically at-risk group, who are likely to be offered vaccination later in the year once people that are more vulnerable to COVID-19 and flu, including those in clinically at-risk groups have been offered
their vaccine.

The NHS will announce when people aged 50 to 64 years not in a clinical at risk will be able to book an appointment or request their free NHS flu vaccine.

Covid-19 vaccine uptake

In a separate report on the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine programme, the Public Accounts Committee calls for efforts to be redoubled to reach those not vaccinated or fully vaccinated.

MPs warn that nearly 3 million adults in England are at greater risk of becoming hospitalised or dying as a result of being unvaccinated against COVID-19.

The report finds that comparatively low vaccination rates persist in many vulnerable groups and has even dropped further for some. It calls for NHS England and UKHSA to urgently evaluate which methods are most effective for increasing uptake, including fresh approaches to tackle the persistent low uptake observed in some ethnic groups.

The Committee acknowledges the success of the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine programme in England and pays tribute to the actions of organisations, including the Vaccine Taskforce, NHS England, and staff including GPs, pharmacists, NHS workers and volunteers. However, the early achievements of the vaccine programme should not cloud the need to review vaccines with uncertainty about how the virus will mutate, say MPs.

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