The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised a number of COVID-19 vaccination programmes in the UK. JCVI has been developing advice on extension of the UK programme, including whether to offer booster doses to those aged 18 to 39 years, second doses for those aged 12 to 15 years, and first and second doses for those aged 5 to 11 years. This process has been expedited and reviewed in light of the emergence of the Omicron variant.

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has asked JCVI to rapidly advise on a strategy to save lives, protect the NHS and reduce disease activity as far as possible. We do not yet know the extent of protection COVID-19 vaccines will provide against the Omicron variant. Protection against infection and against serious disease can be different, and such information is crucial to the development of an optimal vaccination programme. It may be that higher levels of antibody induced by vaccines directed at the original ‘wild type’ variant will provide better protection against the Omicron variant, as has been demonstrated in laboratory studies with respect to other variants. Studies are underway nationally and internationally to determine the validity of this assertion.

Optimising individual protection ahead of a wave of infection will provide the largest benefit in terms of reducing the impact of the Omicron variant on the UK population. Additional data regarding the Omicron variant will take some time to accrue. Waiting for such data before taking some actions risks a suboptimal delayed response.

  • Recommendation
  • Europe
  • United Kingdom
  • COVID-19 variants
  • COVID-19