The JCVI is advising that those who are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 should be offered an additional booster this spring.
In a statement the Department of Health said: “Most people in this group will have received their most recent vaccine dose in September or October 2021 and with the lapse of time, their immunity derived from vaccination may wane substantially before the autumn of 2022. Therefore JCVI is advising that as a precautionary measure for this year an additional booster jab should be offered, to the oldest adults, and those considered most vulnerable around six months after their last vaccine.”
Speaking after the announcement, the head of Northern Ireland’s vaccination programme, Patricia Donnelly said: “COVID-19 has now been with us for two years and we know that it has disproportionately affected a number of groups including; older adults, residents in care homes and those with certain underlying health conditions. We can also see from the evidence that the booster programme introduced in September 2021 has provided high levels of protection against severe disease.
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“The latest data from the UK Health Security Agency has indicated that while protection against mild infection appears to wane, protection against severe illness and hospitalisation is well maintained in older adults, underlining the importance of the booster, particularly for vulnerable groups.
“The latest advice from the JCVI will help us transition to the next phase of our programme and enable us to put operational plans in place for 2022 and onwards so that we can continue to offer the vaccination and the protection it provides to those most at risk from the virus at the most appropriate time.”
JCVI has also published interim guidance on a potential autumn vaccination programme for people who are at higher risk of severe COVID-19; such as those of older age and in clinical risk groups.
In publishing the interim advice, the JCVI said it has acknowledged that while there are uncertainties for the year ahead it is likely that the threat from COVID will be highest during winter and the advice is being provided at this stage for operational purposes.