Frontline health and social care workers will be eligible for a COVID-19 booster vaccine this autumn, officials have confirmed. Inclusion could help protect the NHS and social care from staff absences over the winter months, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) decided.
The Committee said it had begun to include "cost effectiveness considerations" in developing its guidance for the 2023 autumn booster programme.
Following interim advice published in January, the JCVI advises that the groups to be offered a COVID-19 booster vaccine this autumn are:
- Residents in a care home for older adults
- All adults aged 65 years and over
- Persons aged 6 months to 64 years in a clinical risk group, as laid out in the COVID-19 chapter of the Immunisation Green Book
- Frontline health and social care workers
- Persons aged 12 to 64 years who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression
- Persons aged 16 to 64 years who are carers, and staff working in care homes for older adults
Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of COVID-19 immunisation on the JCVI, said: "The autumn booster programme will continue to focus on those at greatest risk of getting seriously ill."
Protecting Against Winter Staff Absences
The JCVI used a bespoke, non-standard method of cost effectiveness assessment to reflect the ongoing uncertainty around COVID-19. Using those methods, it determined that, based on a deployment cost of £10.06 per booster shot, vaccination was likely to be cost-effective for all adults aged 65 years and over, adults in a clinical risk group aged 45 years and over, and immunosuppressed individuals aged 15 years and over.
The Committee decided that although most health and social care workers are no longer at much greater risk of severe COVID-19 compared with the rest of the population, offering an additional booster this autumn could potentially protect health and social care services from staff absences due to the SARS-CoV-2 virus this winter.
When COVID-19 vaccines become available outside nationally funded programmes, any decision on whether to continue to offer vaccination to health and social care workers could become a policy decision for Government and for individual employers, the JCVI said.
The Committee acknowledged that "virulence and transmissibility of any new emergent SARS-CoV-2 variant cannot reliably be predicted in advance" and therefore "rapid response measures may be required should there be substantial changes in population immunity against the dominant circulating variant, including any new variant of concern".
To optimise protection over the winter months, the autumn programme should aim to complete vaccinations by early December 2023. However, the JCVI said it recognised a need for "operational flexibility" in relation to when the vaccines would be offered, "taking into consideration factors such as vaccine supply". Further advice on the choice of vaccine products for use this autumn will be provided in due course, it said.