Third vaccine to be given to those with severely weakened immune systems
Thursday 2 September 2021
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that people with severely weakened immune systems, including some people with cancer, will be offered a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
It comes after research from the OCTAVE study found that one in 10 people with some solid cancer tumours respond less well to the COVID-19 vaccine than healthy people, while 40% of people who are immunocompromised produced fewer antibodies than expected against COVID after two doses of vaccine. The third dose is to help protect those with severely weakened immune systems from the virus.
The third dose will be offered to those over 12 years old who were severely immunosuppressed when they had their first or second vaccine. These include people with cancer who have had immunosuppressive chemotherapy or radiotherapy in the last six months. The third dose will not be offered to everyone on the original list of clinically extremely vulnerable people.
The JCVI have advised that a specialist doctor should decide when to give the third dose – but it should be at least eight weeks after the second and at a time when patients are least likely to be immunosuppressed. The NHS will contact people as soon as possible to discuss their needs and arrange an appointment for a third dose.
This is not the start of the booster programme which is due to get underway this month. A booster dose is one that is given much further down the line, separately from the first two doses of vaccination, to extend the duration of protection that has been given. Those with less serious immunosuppression are not included in this advice but are likely to become eligible for another dose as part of a potential booster programme. The Government is awaiting further advice from the JCVI about the booster vaccine programme.
Genevieve Edwards, Chief Executive of Bowel Cancer UK, says: "We welcome the announcement that a third vaccine will be given to people with severely weakened immune systems, including some patients with bowel cancer. We would encourage anyone who is eligible for the third vaccine dose to take it up when offered to reduce your risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19.
"You should speak to your healthcare team if you think you may be eligible for the third dose."