The Government has accepted advice from the JCVI on the provision of a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine for individuals with severe immunosuppression

Nurse administering vaccine to young man

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that individuals 12 years and over with severe immunosuppression should be offered a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Research into the efficacy of additional vaccine doses to the primary schedule is ongoing, and the potential for additional protection from a third dose is currently unknown at an individual level.

The JCVI advises that the provision of a third dose to people who are immunosuppressed is unlikely to be harmful, but may be beneficial and, on balance, may be safely offered.

For those aged 18 years and over, the JCVI recommends a preference for mRNA vaccines for the third dose, with the option of the AstraZeneca vaccine for individuals who have received this vaccine previously, where this would aid delivery. For those aged 12–17 years the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is the preferred choice.

The third dose should ideally be given at least 8 weeks after the second dose, but special attention should be paid to current or planned immunosuppressive therapies.

‘Welcome’ advice 

The Government has accepted the recommendations from the JCVI, and the NHS will begin to contact those eligible as soon as possible to discuss their needs and arrange an appointment for a third dose where clinically appropriate.

Commenting on the advice, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, 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.

‘So I welcome the advice from JCVI to offer a third primary dose to those with severe immunosuppression, at a bespoke interval, advised by their specialist clinician, and guided by the UK’s immunisation handbook, the Green Book.’