UK releases recommendations for fall COVID boosters

senior man vax

Drazen Zigic/iStock

The United Kingdom's vaccine advisory group today announced its recommendations for the updated COVID-19 vaccines that will roll out in the fall, which focus on people ages 65 and older and others at higher risk for severe disease.

Vaccine companies are making newer versions of the vaccine targeting the XBB.1.5 Omicron variant, and manufacturers have already scaled up production as they await regulatory approval.

Risk groups include pregnant women, older people, immunocompromised, some frontline workers

In its announcement today, the UK's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) detailed the people who will be eligible to receive the vaccine in the fall—those most likely to benefit from vaccination. Aside from those ages 65 and older, the list includes people in nursing facilities and their caregivers, people ages 6 months to 64 who are in clinical risk groups, people ages 12 to 64 who are family contacts of immunocompromised people, and frontline health and social care workers.

In separate document, the JCVI spelled out the people included in the clinical risk groups, which includes pregnant women, people with chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, individuals who are immunosuppressed, and people who are morbidly obese.

The JCVI said more advice on the choice of vaccine product will be provided in the lead-up to fall and that fall vaccination programs should have a goal of completing vaccinations by early December 2023.

Wei Shen Lim, MD, who chairs the JCVI's COVID vaccine activities, said, "It is important that everyone who is eligible takes up a booster this autumn—helping to prevent them from hospitalisations and deaths arising from the virus over the winter months."

Health officials eye ongoing circulation, rising EG.5 levels

Mary Ramsay, MD, who directs public health programs at the UK's Health Security Agency (HSA), said, "The COVID-19 virus has not gone away and we expect to see it circulating more widely over the winter months with the numbers of people getting ill increasing."

Health officials said they would release details on when and where eligible people can access their fall boosters.

Today's announcement comes as the EG.5 Omicron subvariant is increasing in proportions in the United Kingdom and other countries, including the United States. A few weeks ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) added EG.5 as a variant under monitoring but said there is no evidence that it causes more severe disease.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the middle of June recommended a switch to a monovalent XBB.1.5 vaccine for fall immunization. Health officials are awaiting official recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This week's top reads