People aged 12 and over with severely weakened immune systems are set to be offered a third dose of a vaccine to increase their protection against COVID-19.
The news was announced on Wednesday, with the UK Government’s Health Secretary Sajid Javid accepting new recommendations from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
The rollout of third jabs for those with weakened immune systems is set to begin with people being contacted by the NHS “as soon as possible”. The rollout is separate to the start of the vaccine booster programme, which will see those most at risk of COVID-19 being offered a booster, third jab.
Speaking about the new advice from the JCVI, Professor Jonathan Van Tam, England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer said;
“We know there are people with severe immunosuppression for whom the first two doses of vaccine have not provided the same level protection as for the general population. The degree of protection will vary by individual, according to degree of immunosuppression and the underlying reasons for that.”
Professor Van Tam added;
“We should be doing all we reasonably can to ensure that this group is not disadvantaged and a third primary dose is one step in this direction. We are also working hard to ensure there are other medical interventions that can be used in these groups, including specific treatments like antivirals and monoclonal antibodies.”
It is thought around 500,000 people in the UK will be contacted soon due to having severely weakened immune systems. Some people with conditions such as advanced HIV, blood cancer or those who have recently had organ or stem-cell transplants are understood to be among those who may be eligible.
The new advice from the JCVI follows research that showed that around 40% of people with weakened immune systems experienced a low antibody response to COVID-19 vaccinations, making them potentially less well protected against the virus to other people who had received two jabs.
To date, 88.5% of the UK population aged 16+ have had at least one vaccine dose against coronavirus, while nearly 78.9% have had two vaccine doses.