UK to Give Third COVID-19 Vaccine Dose to Severely Immunosuppressed People

The United Kingdom will give a third COVID-19 vaccine dose to severely immunosuppressed people to increase their chances of generating a better immune response against the virus.

Public Health England announced on Sept. 1 that a third dose should be offered to those aged over 12 years with a severely weakened immune system at the time of their first or second dose, including those with leukemia, advanced HIV, and recent organ transplants.

The recommendation, made by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI), follows data that showed that around 40% of immunosuppressed people generated low levels of antibodies from two vaccine shots, making them more likely to be severely ill if they get infected with COVID-19.

Although studies are still ongoing to see how effective a third dose would be for immunosuppressed people, JCVI believes that it is “very unlikely to cause any harm” and it “can be safely offered as it may increase their protection.”

“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 hospitalization and death,” Professor Wei Shen Lim, Chair of COVID-19 Immunization for the JCVI, said.

JCVI advises the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines for adults for the third dose while only the Pfizer-BioNTech for those aged 12 to 17 years.

This offer is separate from the potential booster program that would cover a larger part of the population. JCVI said it is still waiting for further evidence for the booster shots.

The move also follows the United States, which authorized a third Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for immunocompromised people last month.

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