Covid booster jab: who is eligible for a 4th vaccine, how to book, and when it could be rolled out more widely

It has been recommended to the Government that only certain groups of people should receive the booster

The UK rolled out the fourth Covid booster vaccine to some eligible groups in April of this year.

But following the latest recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), who is currently eligible to receive a fourth jab and when could it be rolled out to others?

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Here’s what you need to know.

The JCVI has advised the Government to provide an autumn Covid-19 booster programme

Who is currently eligible for a fourth jab?

The UK rolled out fourth doses to over-75s and the most vulnerable in April of this year.

Those currently eligible to receive the 4th dose include:

  • adults aged 75 and over
  • residents in care homes for older adults
  • those aged 12 and over with weakened immune systems

An appointment can be booked online three months (91 days) after your previous dose, but to get maximum protection, the NHS recommends having the fourth dose about six months later.

Will it be rolled out to others?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised the Government to provide an autumn Covid-19 booster programme in preparation for winter.

However, the committee has only recommended that certain vulnerable groups receive the booster, including:

  • those in older age groups
  • residents in care homes for older adults
  • frontline health and social care workers
  • those with certain underlying health conditions receive a booster vaccine ahead of the winter period

Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of Covid-19 vaccination on the JCVI, said: “Last year’s autumn booster vaccination programme provided excellent protection against severe Covid-19, including against the Omicron variant.

“We have provided interim advice on an autumn booster programme for 2022 so that the NHS and care homes are able to start the necessary operational planning, to enable high levels of protection for more vulnerable individuals and frontline healthcare staff over next winter.

“As we continue to review the scientific data, further updates to this advice will follow.”

What were the results of the recent booster trial?

A UK trial recently found that a fourth dose of a Covid-19 booster vaccine increases protection against coronavirus, particularly in those aged over 70,.

The study of 133 people, two weeks after their fourth dose, some of whom were over 70 and some under 70, found that the vaccines were both “well-tolerated” and “boosted immunity”.

The researchers said that “peak responses after the fourth dose were similar to, and possibly better than, peak responses after the third dose”.

But the study, which was published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases, also concluded that a large increase in anti-spike antibodies would probably wane rapidly, as was seen after third doses.

All participants were vaccinated with a dose of Pfizer or a half dose of Moderna about six months after having their third dose.

Professor Saul Faust, Cov-Boost study leader from the University of Southampton, said: “There was good boosting in all groups, particularly for the over-70s, and the half dose of Moderna was slightly higher.”

The T-cells, which are another part of the immune system, were also boosted after the fourth dose. This suggests longer-lasting protection against severe disease was increased.

However, Prof Faust said that the recent Omicron wave means most people will have been recently infected with Covid-19 and now have high antibody levels. This means they are unlikely to gain much from another dose.

The study was also small so more research is needed over a longer period of time in order to track how long the immune response lasts.