Third Covid-19 booster jabs are set to start being administered to the elderly and vulnerable from September.
Regulators have announced that over 70s and those deemed clinically vulnerable to the virus will be eligible first if data suggests vaccine immunity is waning.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) delivered its interim advice on booster jab rollout while its scientists continue to analyse immunity data over the summer.
They are now convinced vaccine protection lasts at least six months for most people.
If deemed necessary in the JCVI’s final advice, the first stage of boosters will be given the green light over the summer.
It will also include frontline health and social care workers as well as residents in elderly care homes.
A second stage would then see all under-50s and anyone entitled to a free flu jab invited for their third Covid-19 vaccine doses.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “We need to learn to live with this virus.
“Our first COVID-19 vaccination programme is restoring freedom in this country, and our booster programme will protect this freedom.
“We are working with the NHS to make sure we can rapidly deliver this programme to maintain protection for people in the winter months.”
The programme could see flu jabs administered alongside Covid jabs as medics fear a dangerous flu season this winter.
That is because natural immunity to flu is low after a year in which virtually no-one caught it due to isolation and social distancing.
Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said: “Being able to manage Covid-19 with fewer or no restrictions is now heavily dependent on the continued success of the vaccination programme.
“We want to be on the front foot for Covid-19 booster vaccination to keep the probability of loss of vaccine protection due to waning immunity or variants as low as possible, especially over the coming autumn and winter.
“Fewer or no restrictions will mean that other respiratory viruses, particularly flu, will make a comeback and quite possibly be an additional problem this winter.”
The UK is on track to offer a first dose to all adults by July 19, two weeks earlier than planned.
The JCVI is still considering whether to offer Covid-19 jabs to those under-18.
Prof Wei Shen Lim, Covid-19 chair for JCVI, said: “The primary objective of any potential Covid-19 booster vaccine programme should be to reduce serious disease, including death.
“The JCVI’s interim advice is that, should a booster programme be required, a third vaccine dose should be offered to the most vulnerable first, starting from September 2021 to maximise individual protection and safeguard the NHS ahead of winter.
“Almost all these people would also be eligible for the annual flu vaccine and are strongly advised to have the flu vaccine.
“We will continue to review emerging scientific data over the next few months, including data relating to the duration of immunity from the current vaccines.
“Our final advice on booster vaccination may change substantially.”