Interim advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to the government says residents and staff at care homes for older people, frontline health and social care workers, adults over 65 and people aged 16-64 in clinical risk groups should be offered a jab this autumn.
'Considerable uncertainty' remains over the likelihood, timing and severity of any future wave of COVID-19, the JCVI warned - but it confirmed that winter would pose the greatest threat to at-risk people.
Advice from the JCVI says the advice is 'interim' because of this uncertainty but can offer a basis for the NHS to plan rollout of the next phase of the vaccination programme.
JCVI COVID-19 vaccination chair Professor Wei Shen Lim 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.'
The primary goal of an autumn 2022 booster campaign would be to boost population immunity and help prevent cases of severe disease and hospitalisations, the JCVI confirmed.
It cited evidence that throughout the pandemic, COVID-19 'has disproportionately affected those in older age groups, residents in care homes for older adults, and those with certain underlying health conditions, particularly those who are severely immunosuppressed'.
The committee is continuing to review the vaccination programme and is considering 'the timing and value of doses for less vulnerable older adults and those in clinical risk groups ahead of autumn 2022' - with final plans for the autumn campaign to be announced 'in due course'.
GPonline reported earlier this month that vaccination of children aged 5-11 had moved slowly, with just 6% of people in this age range having received a first dose of vaccine a month after rollout began.
Meanwhile, vaccine uptake among pregnant women has increased in recent months, but significant inequalities remain between women of different ethnicities and by deprivation.