The UK’s Covid vaccination programme is entering its third winter season, with eligible groups able to get a top-up.

So who will be offered this year’s booster and when will it be available?

Who will be eligible for the Covid autumn vaccine?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) says the following groups should be offered a Covid booster jab this autumn:

  • – residents in a care home for older adults
    – all adults aged 65 years and over
    – adults and children aged 6 months to 64 years in a clinical risk group, which includes pregnant women
    – frontline health and social care workers
    – people aged 12 to 64 years who live with people who are  immunosuppressed
    – people aged 16 to 64 years who are carers

England’s health secretary, Steve Barclay, said he has accepted the advice. The other UK nations are expected to follow suit.

Why aren’t all over-50s being offered a Covid booster this year?

Last autumn, all over-50s, whether they had an underlying condition or not, were invited for a booster jab – but eligibility has been tightened this year.

Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair of Covid immunisation on the JCVI, said: “The autumn booster programme will continue to focus on those at greatest risk of getting seriously ill. These persons will benefit the most from a booster vaccination.”

But Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at Warwick University, told FactCheck: “The decision to axe free flu jabs and Covid boosters for the under-65s is very high risk and will inevitably exacerbate winter pressures on the NHS.

“With threats of a particularly challenging flu season (Australia is experiencing a record flu season which usually indicates what we can expect in the UK this winter) and the continued unpredictability of Covid variants, it seems very short-sighted to be restricting access to these vaccines.”

Though Sir Andrew Pollard, professor of paediatric infection and immunity at Oxford University, told FactCheck: “More than 99 per cent of healthy younger adults and children are already immune to Covid as a result of previous vaccination and/or infection and are not at risk of severe disease, though Covid can still cause a miserable cold.”

He said the latest JCVI advice “ensures that the programme is best targeted to prevent hospitalisations and deaths and that this provides the best use of public money for the NHS”.

When will Covid booster vaccines be available?

According to the UK Health Security Agency, the rollout is due to begin in October and NHS England will be specifying an exact date closer to the time.

The JCVI has advised that the autumn programme should aim to complete vaccinations by early December 2023.