Third Covid vaccine for vulnerable Brits is approved – are you eligible?
EXTREMELY high risk people will soon get a third Covid vaccine to bolster their immune system – but health chiefs still haven’t decided on booster jabs.
Around 500,000 people living with HIV, blood cancer, transplanted organs or weak immune systems will be offered an extra dose to try and build protection.
But the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has still not decided on giving boosters to other at-risk groups or the elderly this autumn.
Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt urged experts to "get on with booster jabs" but JCVI bosses insist they don’t have enough data to decide.
The latest update means patients aged 12 and over with extremely weak immune systems will soon be able to get an extra dose of vaccine in case the first two didn’t work properly.
For a jab to work a person's body must be healthy enough to attack the vaccine – which looks like a virus – and remember how to destroy it in case they are infected with the real thing.
But if their immune system is too weak to fend it off the first time, it cannot form that memory and they do not develop any protection.
People with certain conditions, such as leukaemia, may have severely damaged white blood cells which mean they struggle to fight off viruses.
While others, including organ transplant patients, have to take medications that stop their immune system from over-reacting – and in this case rejecting the organ – but that also stop it preventing real illnesses.
The third dose programme is set to begin immediately but eligible patients will be contacted by their doctor to choose the best time to get the jab.
They will be offered Pfizer or Moderna, regardless of which jab they had the first time around, because they are proven to be safe for a third dose.
Chief of Covid for the JCVI, Professor Wei Shen Lim, said: "We want people with severely suppressed immune systems to have the best chance of gaining protection from Covid-19 via vaccination.
"Therefore, we are advising they have a third vaccine dose on top of their initial two doses, as we hope this will reduce their risk of severe outcomes such as hospitalisation and death."
Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van Tam added: "We know there are people with severe immunosuppression for whom the first two doses of vaccine have not provided the same level of protection as for the general population.
"The degree of protection will vary by individual, so I welcome the advice from JCVI to offer a third primary dose to those with severe immunosuppression, advised by their specialist clinician."
People who will be eligible for the third dose include those with HIV, leukaemia or lymphoma, stem cell transplant recipients, organ transplant recipients, people on immunosuppressive chemotherapy and some patients taking corticosteroids for long periods or at high doses.
Meanwhile, millions of Brits are still waiting to find out whether they will get a third jab as a booster before the end of the year, with top advisers staying tight-lipped.
Jeremy Hunt urged ministers to go ahead and said: "Get on with booster jabs, not just for the clinically vulnerable but for everyone.
"The latest ZOE study showed vaccine effectiveness dropping after six months, so why are we hanging around?"
Following today's announcement, Health Secretary Sajid Javid explained: "This is not the start of the booster programme – we are continuing to plan for this to begin in September to ensure the protection people have built from vaccines is maintained over time and ahead of the winter.
"We will prioritise those most at risk from Covid-19 based on the final advice of the JCVI."
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