Spring 2024 Covid booster announced for most vulnerable

A new Covid-19 booster vaccination programme for those most at risk of serious illness from the virus is expected to begin in the coming months.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) published advice last week to the UK Government, and the devolved governments of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, on a spring 2024 Covid-19 vaccination campaign.

“Covid-19 continues to cause severe illness, particularly in older age groups and those who are immunosuppressed”

Mary Ramsay

According to the JCVI, vaccines should be offered to people aged 75 and over, older adults in care homes, and people aged six months and older who are immunosuppressed.

The advice is similar to that of last spring, except then the minimum age of eligible people who are immunosuppressed was set as five years.

The focus on older people in the guidance is in response to data showing that hospitalisations from Covid-19 continue to be highest in those aged 75 and older.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, Covid-19 immunisation chair for the JCVI, said: “The Covid-19 spring programme will continue to focus on those at greatest risk of getting seriously ill, who will benefit the most from a further vaccine dose.

“It is important that everyone who is eligible takes up the offer this spring. Current vaccines provide good protection against severe disease, hospitalisation and can protect those most vulnerable from death.”

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The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) echoed the JCVI’s advice. UKHSA director of public health programmes Dr Mary Ramsay urged everyone who is eligible to take up the offer of a vaccine “as soon as possible”.

“Our on-going surveillance shows that Covid-19 continues to cause severe illness, particularly in older age groups and those who are immunosuppressed,” added Dr Ramsay.

“[It] also clearly shows that spring and autumn vaccines are effective in helping to protect those most at risk – halving the likelihood of hospitalisation from the virus.”

UKHSA further said NHS England “will confirm details” on how and when eligible people can access the spring booster.

Other health organisations in the UK have followed suit.

A spokesperson for Public Health Scotland told Nursing Times: “Following advice from the JCVI, Scottish Government and Public Health Scotlandwill work with NHS boards to finalise plans for the roll out of Scotland’s spring Covid-19 vaccination programme.”

Meanwhile, Public Health Wales republished the JCVI advice on its website and said that those eligible for a booster would receive an invite from their health board.

A spokesperson for the Northern Irish Public Health Agency told Nursing Times that while it had acknowledged the JCVI’s advice, it had already begun a booster programme.

In Northern Ireland, boosters are being offered to anyone aged 50 and over, frontline health and social care workers, those aged 16-49 with underlying health conditions, adult carers, adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals and all those living in residential care homes for older adults.

The programme will primarily be delivered by GPs and community pharmacies,” the spokesperson said.

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“Trusts will be vaccinating care home residents and their own frontline staff while community pharmacies will initially be vaccinating non-trust employed frontline health care staff before moving on to the eligible general population.  

“GPs will shortly be starting to invite their older patients in first to receive their booster.”

In 2023, a similar booster campaign was carried out. UKHSA reported a 67.5% uptake rate for those aged 75 years and over.

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