Since the first Covid-19 vaccine was authorised for use in the UK in December 2020, the aim of the Covid-19 vaccination programme has been, and continues to be, the reduction of severe disease (hospitalisation and mortality) across the population, whilst protecting the NHS.
The independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has provided interim advice on the 2023 Covid-19 vaccination programme for planning purposes.
The JCVI’s interim advice is that:
1. in autumn 2023, persons at higher risk of severe Covid-19 would be offered a booster vaccine dose in preparation for winter 2023/24;
2. in addition, for a smaller group of persons (such as persons of older age and those who are immunosuppressed) an extra booster vaccine dose may be offered in spring 2023;
3. emergency surge vaccine responses may be required should a novel variant of concern emerge with clinically significant biological differences compared to the Omicron variant.
The JCVI has also provided advice on the ongoing offer of initial Covid-19 vaccination (primary course) and 2021 booster dose offers (third dose). As the transition continues away from a pandemic emergency response towards pandemic recovery, the JCVI considers that the risk of severe Covid-19 continues to be disproportionately greater in those from older age groups, residents in care homes for older adults and for persons with certain underlying health conditions.
The JCVI’s advice is that:
1. the 2021 booster offer (third dose) for persons aged 16 to 49 years who are not in a clinical risk group should end in alignment with the close of the autumn 2022 vaccination campaign;
2. otherwise healthy persons aged 5 to 49 years, who develop a new health condition in 2023 that places them in a clinical risk group would be offered primary vaccination and/or a booster vaccine during the next seasonal vaccination campaign, as appropriate. Vaccination outside these campaign periods would be subject to individual clinical judgement;
3. primary course (initial doses) of 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; this would include:
a) residents in a care home for older adults and staff working in care homes for older adults
b) frontline health and social care workers
c) all adults aged 50 years and over
d) persons aged 5 to 49 years in a clinical risk group
e) persons aged 12 to 49 years who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression
f) persons aged 16 to 49 years who are carers
4. research should be considered to inform the optimal timing of booster vaccinations to protect against severe Covid-19 (hospitalisations and death) for groups who are at different levels of clinical risk.
His Majesty's Government has accepted the JCVI’s advice. In England, the 2021 booster offer (third dose) for persons aged 16 to 49 years who are not in a clinical risk group will end in alignment with the close of the autumn 2022 campaign in England on 12 February 2023. The JCVI’s advice to target the initial vaccination (primary course) offer to those at higher risk from Covid-19 has been accepted by HMG subject to further consideration of timings.
I am informed that all four parts of the UK intend to accept the JCVI’s advice on the same basis.
I will update the House when further advice is received from the JCVI on the Covid-19 vaccination programmes recommended for 2023, including confirmation of whether a spring booster programme is advised.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords