Professor Adam Finn, who sits on the JCVI, told BBC Breakfast that it was ‘becoming quite clear’ that only a ‘small group of people’ may need a booster.
Professor Finn said this would include people who were immunosuppressed, such as those receiving treatment for cancer or people who had received organ transplants. But he said the JCVI - yet to issue its final advice - was waiting on evidence to see whether other groups would need a third dose.
GPonline understands that most GP practices have signed up to deliver booster jabs this autumn, and have been looking at how they can co-administer third doses alongside flu jabs should this be approved.
However, the suggestion that only a ‘small group’ of people could receive a booster has cast more doubt over plans for vaccines this autumn, a situation GPs have already described as a logistical ‘nightmare’.
Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said on 10 August that the government was expecting to begin the booster campaign in 'early September' ahead of final advice. But Professor Finn suggested on BBC Breakfast that the booster campaign could be smaller than first anticipated.
He said: ‘I think it's becoming quite clear that there are a small group of people whose immune responses to the first two doses are likely to be inadequate.
‘People who've got immunosuppression of one kind or another, perhaps because they've got immunodeficiency, or they've been receiving treatment for cancer, bone marrow transplants, organ transplants. So I think it's quite likely we'll be advising on a third dose for some of those groups.
'A broader booster programme is still uncertain, we've laid out potential plans so that the logistics of that can be put together, alongside the flu vaccine programme.
‘But we need to review evidence as to whether people who received vaccines early on in the programme, really are in any serious risk of getting serious disease, or whether the protection they've got from those first two doses is still strong. We clearly don't want to be giving vaccines to people that don't need them.’
Dr Finn added the JCVI would look at COVID hospitalisations and other data to see the profile of people who were ending up with serious illness - and if their protection was waning.
In June, it was announced that over-70s, clinically vulnerable patients and health and care staff could be offered COVID-19 booster jabs from 1 September alongside flu vaccination.
The booster campaign could then be widened to cover all people aged over 50, 16- to 59-year-olds in flu or COVID-19 at-risk groups and household contacts of some at-risk patients.
NHS England has ruled out administration of COVID-19 booster jabs at individual practice level in an enhanced service document for phase 3 of the vaccination campaign that BMA leaders say 'ignores' the voice of GPs.
More than three in four UK adults have now received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine - preventing 60,000 deaths and 66,900 hospitalisations.