The British government announced Tuesday that it would begin giving booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine to people ages 50 and over, as well as others in more vulnerable groups.
The booster shots, which are set to begin next week, according to multiple reports, come as the debate over the extra jabs is heating up in the United States.
The British approach is somewhat narrower than the plan the Biden administration announced last month to offer a third shot to all adults, not just those 50 and over.
The British Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation also recommended booster shots for front-line health workers and people under 50 who have underlying health conditions.
In the U.S., a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee will meet on Friday to discuss booster recommendations.
Some experts think the U.S. should also offer boosters only to older people and other more vulnerable groups.
“Based on publicly available data I've seen, evidence suggests: Boosters likely useful for folks who are immunocompromised, frail, elderly, or have serious chronic disease,” tweeted Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. “Whether young, healthy people need boosters less clear.”
Some have argued that vaccines remain highly effective against severe cases of the disease. Two departing FDA vaccine officials wrote a paper published Monday alongside other experts arguing against boosters for the general population.
"Current evidence does not, therefore, appear to show a need for boosting in the general population, in which efficacy against severe disease remains high," wrote the officials, Marion Gruber and Phil Krause.
The U.K. boosters will be offered to people at least six months after their second dose.
Wei Shen Lim, chair of the U.K. Committee recommending boosters, said: “The U.K.’s COVID-19 vaccination programme has been hugely successful in protecting people against hospitalisation and death, and the main aim of the booster programme is to prolong that protection and reduce serious disease as we head towards the colder months.”