A Covid-19 vaccine booster programme has been given the go-ahead for the most vulnerable in the U.K. this winter.
Plans to protect those most at risk of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus have been in the pipeline for some months, and with a bigger flu season than usual expected - the NHS has been told to begin thinking ahead to rolling out the boosters in the autumn.
"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," said Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England.
"We will need to ensure protection against flu, as well as maintaining protection against Covid-19."
The new Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed that government ministers were working with NHS bosses to begin the rollout programme from September.
"Our first Covid-19 vaccination programme is restoring freedom in this country, and our booster programme will protect this freedom," he said.
Those eligible for the Covid-19 booster in stage one will include all adults aged 70 years or older, adults over the age of 16 who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable, frontline health and social care workers, older adults living in residential care homes, and those aged 16 and over who are immunosuppressed.
Stage two of the rollout will be offered to all adults aged 50 and over, adults aged 16 to 49 who usually qualify for a flu jab or are in a Covid-19 risk group, and adults who live with immunosuppressed individuals.
NHS bosses had been urging the government to give them as much time as possible to plan for a possible booster programme, as they will need to administer the jabs alongside the usual flu vaccine.
It is not yet known which type of vaccine will be used for the booster programme.
Young adults are not currently expected to receive a third dose because they will have had their second dose over the summer, but this decision could be revised if necessary.