The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has this afternoon (Friday 15 June) issued an updated statement on the COVID-19 vaccination programme for autumn 2022.
Over the last 2 years, through a combination of vaccine-induced immunity and immunity generated following natural infection (natural immunity), large proportions of the UK population have developed at least partial immunity against COVID-19.
As the UK transitions from a period of pandemic emergency response to pandemic recovery, the focus will increasingly be on protecting those in society who continue to be more at risk of severe COVID-19.
To achieve this, a planned and targeted vaccination programme is considered more appropriate than a reactive vaccination strategy.
For the 2022 autumn booster programme, the primary objective is to augment immunity in those at higher risk from COVID-19 and thereby optimise protection against severe COVID-19, specifically hospitalisation and death, over winter 2022 to 2023.
Health Minister Robin Swann has welcomed the publication of JCVI recommendations on the COVID-19 vaccination programme for autumn 2022.
Mr Swann said: “We can now step up our planning to deliver our autumn booster programme in Northern Ireland, based on this JCVI guidance.
“Vaccination provides vital protection against COVID-19, and has been particularly effective at reducing the risk of serious illness, hospitalisation and death.
“When we think back to where we were in 2020 before vaccines became available, we are reminded just how much we owe to all those who made our vaccine programme possible.
“Our vaccination programme in Northern Ireland has involved a huge collective effort right across health and social care.
“The JCVI advice for this autumn means boosters will be available to a large section of our population, who JCVI believe would benefit most from receiving a booster dose. Delivering this programme will be a major logistical operation for our health service but I am very confident we will rise to the challenge once again, despite all the pressures our service continues to face.
“Vaccination is our chief defence against COVID-19 and I would again urge everyone who is eligible for a booster as part of our autumn programme to come forward as soon as it becomes available.”
Accordingly, JCVI advises that for the 2022 autumn booster programme, the following groups should be offered a COVID-19 booster vaccine:
• 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, as set out in the Green Book, chapter 14a, tables 3 and 4
• persons aged 5 to 49 years who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression
• persons aged 16 to 49 years who are carers, as set out in the Green Book, chapter 14a, table 3
In order to optimise protection over the winter months, the autumn programme should aim to complete vaccinations by the start of December 2022. Operational flexibility will apply in relation to vaccine supply, promotion of vaccine uptake and prioritisation for vaccination according to underlying risk of severe COVID-19.
It is not the intention of JCVI that the 2022 COVID-19 autumn booster programme should disrupt or delay deployment of the annual influenza immunisation programme.
Both programmes are important for individual and public health, especially over the coming winter. Where operationally expedient, COVID-19 and influenza vaccines may be co-administered.