People aged 12 and over with weakened immune systems to get third Covid vaccine dose

1 September 2021, 18:01 | Updated: 1 September 2021, 19:45

By Patrick Grafton-Green

People with severely weakened immune systems are to receive a third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, Health Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed.

The news follows advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

The rollout will apply to all those with severely weakened immune systems aged 12 and over, understood to be about 400,000 to 500,000 people in the UK.

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Mr Javid said on Wednesday: "We know people with specific conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 may have received less protection against the virus from two vaccine doses. I am determined to ensure we are doing all we can to protect people in this group and a third dose will help deliver that.

"The NHS will contact people as soon as possible to discuss their needs and arrange an appointment for a third dose where clinically appropriate."

He added this will not form part of the booster programme.

The JCVI is currently considering who should receive jabs during a possible booster campaign over the autumn, with the NHS in England poised to start it from September 6.

The Health Secretary confirmed the plan remains to start rolling this out within the next month.

Professor Anthony Harnden, of the JCVI, said: "The important difference is that we're topping up people that may not have mounted a good response to the first and second doses of vaccine.

"With the booster campaign we'll be giving a booster shot to those who have mounted a good response to the first two doses of vaccine but that has waned over time.

"The difference is one group is waning over time and the other group may not have mounted a good response in the first place."

He said those affected will include "primary or secondary immunodeficiency, things like blood cancers, leukemia, lymphomas etc or people that are on medication that are causing immunosuppression".

He added: "Because their blood antibody and T-cell levels may be lower we’re offering them a third dose as an insurance policy to see whether we can top up those immunity levels."

"A combination of GPs and specialists will identify and then arrange for vaccinations so there is no need for these people with immunosuppression to contact their doctor, their doctor should contact them," he said.

Professor Jonathan Van Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, welcomed today's news.

He said: "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."

Covid-19 vaccines are believed to have saved more than 105,000 lives and prevented 24 million infections in England.

Mr Javid added: "I encourage everybody who is eligible to get their jabs as soon as they can."