JCVI advice on COVID-19 vaccines for autumn booster programme

16 August 2022

On the 16th of August 2022 the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) published further advice for the roll out of the COVID-19 autumn booster programme. In this they discuss which of the vaccines should be utilised in the autumn boosters administration.

They do highlight that all vaccines being used for boosters offer good protection levels versus the serious illness from coronavirus and that the onus should be placed on eligible parties getting the booster ahead of the winter season rather than on which type of vaccine is used.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, Chair of COVID-19 immunisation on the JCVI, said:

“All of the available booster vaccines offer very good protection against severe illness from COVID-19. As more vaccines continue to be developed and approved, the JCVI will consider the benefits of including them in the UK programme.”

“It is important that everyone who is eligible takes up a booster this autumn, whichever vaccine is on offer. This will increase your protection against being severely ill from COVID-19 as we move into winter.”
Professor Wei Shen Lim, Chair of COVID-19 immunisation on the JCVI

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), stated that:

“Although cases of COVID-19 are relatively low at present, we are expecting to see the virus circulating more widely during the winter months.”

“The booster is being offered to those at higher risk of severe illness and by taking up the booster vaccine this autumn, you will increase your protection ahead of the winter months, when respiratory viruses are typically at their peak.”
Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at UKHSA

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said, “I have accepted the independent advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on which vaccines should be offered in this autumn’s booster programme. This includes a Moderna bivalent vaccine which will target two different variants – the Omicron and original strain of Covid.”

“Vaccines remain our best defence against Covid, and this safe and effective vaccine will broaden immunity and potentially improve protections against some variants as we learn to live with this virus.”

 “Our vaccine rollout to date has been world leading – it has already saved countless lives and reduced the pressure on the NHS.”

“We will begin to contact those eligible from early September, and I would urge people to come forward as soon as they are invited so together we can keep each safe and protect our NHS.”

Who is eligible for the autumn boosters? 

Guidance as to who is eligible for the autumn boosters can be found here: Over 50s to be offered COVID-19 booster and flu jab this autumn – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).

We have provided below a summarised list of eligible groups and put in bold the categories that apply to those with rheumatoid or juvenile idiopathic arthritis and those who come into close contact with these groups such as carers.

  • 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 group1, as set out in the Green Book.
  • 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.

Which vaccines are being used in the autumn booster programme?

For adults aged 18 years and above:

  • Moderna mRNA (Spikevax) bivalent Omicron BA.1/Original ‘wild-type’ vaccine.
  • Moderna mRNA (Spikevax) Original ‘wild-type’ vaccine.
  • Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA (Comirnaty) Original ‘wild-type’ vaccine.
  • In exceptional circumstances, the Novavax Matrix-M adjuvanted wild-type vaccine (Nuvaxovid) may be used when no alternative clinically suitable UK-approved COVID-19 vaccine is available.

For people aged 12 to 17 years:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA (Comirnaty) Original ‘wild-type’ vaccine

For people aged 5 to 11 years:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA (Comirnaty) Original ‘wild-type’ vaccine paediatric formulation.

More about the vaccines

An evolving landscape

Coronavirus as we all know has evolved into a number of different variants and because of this there is an ongoing need for global pharmaceutical companies to continue a responsive approach to the ever changing situation through research and the development of vaccines which address the differences in the strains of the virus.

Because of this ‘Bivalent’ vaccines have been developed in order to fight the now dominant Omicron variant of COVID-19. In essence ‘bivalent’ describes a vaccine being made up of two (‘bi’) parts. These vaccines contain two different antigens (substances that facilitate an immune response) based on two different COVID-19 strains, or variants. This differs to the original mRNA vaccines which only contained a single antigen (‘monovalent’), based on the original ‘wild-type’ strain.

How much better are the ‘bivalent’ vaccines?

At this point in time, research has shown a marginal increase in the immune response mounted to the Moderna bivalent vaccine (which targets the Omicron and original variants of the virus) compared to the original Moderna monovalent vaccine. Although, it is noted that the clinical relevance of this differences is yet uncertain and will require further study.

The JCVI will consider further bivalent vaccines on an ongoing basis for their suitability for use in the autumn booster programme as they are approved by the MHRA.

How will the autumn vaccines be rolled out?

In its latest advice the JCVI has stated that, where feasible, it would be preferable for a single type of booster vaccine to be offered throughout the duration of the autumn programme for simplicity of deployment.

NHS England will confirm details on how and when eligible people can access the autumn booster vaccine in due course.

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