Booster COVID jabs will be offered to people aged 50 and over, those in care homes, and frontline health and social care workers, the government has announced.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said there was a preference for mRNA vaccines based on trials, with a first choice for a booster being the Pfizer vaccine, or alternatively, a half-dose of a Moderna jab as it works just as well.
Those who are unable to have an mRNA vaccine due to allergies should have an AstraZeneca vaccine booster.
A third dose should not be given until six months after a person has received a second shot, the committee added.
JCVI Chair Professor Wei Shen Lim told a press conference: “Getting a dose too early may mean they do not need it as they still have a high level of protection, and as we’ve seen with the gap between the first and second dose, you don’t want to have it too early.”
He said a recurrent booster every six months may not be needed but it is too early to say.
Prof Lim added that the booster advice is just for now and younger people may not need a booster, but the JCVI will advise on that at a later date.
He said the booster programme does not mean people should not get their first and second COVID vaccines if they have not already.
He also said people should still have a flu vaccine and can have the booster and flu jab at the same time – although this may not be practically possible.
England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam warned of a “bumpy” winter ahead despite the vaccines having been “incredibly successful” and had so far prevented an estimated 24 million COVID-19 cases and 112,000 deaths.
“But we also know that this pandemic is still active. We are not past the pandemic, we are in an active phase still,” he said.
“We know that this winter could quite possibly be bumpy at times and we know that other respiratory viruses such as flu and RSV are highly likely to make their returns.”
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